It is mostly operetta enthusiasts who remember the name of the monocle-wearing Austrian tenor Richard Tauber today, and that's why this release by Polish tenor Piotr Beczala is welcome. Tauber was an enormously popular figure in many countries, singing in many languages, from the 1910s through the end of his life, unhappily exiled from his native Austria due to Jewish ancestry, after World War II. It's not clear whether Tauber's languages included Polish, but the program here involves German, English, and Italian. Beczala's German is excellent; his English is slightly accented, but probably less so than Tauber's own, and there are no distractions to impede the enjoyment of Tauber's biggest hit, You Are My Heart's Delight, from Franz Lehár's The Land of Smiles. That and a few other similar numbers set the pattern for operetta and later film musical composers who tried to tailor their big numbers to Tauber's strengths. The composers here range from the well known (Lehár) to the moderately known (Emmerich Kálmán) to the all-but-forgotten (Rudolf Sieczynski and several of the film film composers), but all the music seems of a piece, and in a style consistent enough to be familiar. That style straddled the divide between operetta and popular song; it is extravagantly romantic, almost strangely so from a modern perspective, filled with the rhythms of the waltz and other popular dances, but exploding often enough into the upper tenor register to give the singer some star quality. Beczala, something of a connoisseur's tenor up to this point, handles the high Bs nicely, and there is just a sense of fun about the whole thing that puts across something of what Tauber must have been like. You get an aural whiff of Tauber himself in track 7, Du bist die Welt für mich (You are the world to me), which he also composed; this could have had an odd necro-duet feel, but it is tastefully handled, with the Tauber excerpt, recorded in 1934, coming in at the end as a sort of memory. An enjoyable major-label debut for operetta lovers.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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