JOSEPH SCHMIDT SEIN LIED GEHT UM DIE WELT
By Alfred Fassbind
330 pp including CD, Eur 36.80
/ (fabulous live rendition of nun me sceta!! Singing starts at 3.11 min !)
Roemerhof Verlag. Click here to order the book.
(other Schmidt books long deleted)
Along with Caruso, Del Monaco, Lanza, Di Stefano, Bjoerling, Domingo and Pavarotti Joseph Schmidt belongs to those tenors about whom most books have been written. Now 5 in total. The first one was written by Getrud and Karl Ney-Nowotny in 1962 and was an honourable and honest effort in those pre-internet days, another one -to be ignored- was written by Carl Ritter, Fred Bredschneyder published his excellent Schmidt book in 1981 and Alfred Fassbind's first Schmidt biography was published in 1992. Now 20 years and lots of new research later an updated manuscript has been written.
The new edition features several new photos, including a rare stage photo as Rodolfo in La Boheme from Antwerp where he was immensely popular but as said also the content of the book has been updated with new information especially concerning the fate and whereabouts of Schmidt's family. Often one can still read that Schmidt's voice was a 'radio voice' ; most of the time these comments stem from people who did not hear him in the flesh. I've spoken to at least three people who heard him, all of them singers themselves (Masha Benya, Paula Lindberg and Berthe van Hyfte) and all of them told me the voice was heard without any difficulty at all in the opera house or concert hall. Leo Riemens the Dutch critic heard him in Scheveningen's legendary Kurhaus once wrote the voice was about the same size as Bjoerling's whom he heard in the same venue.
(photo dedicated to Riemens, courtesy Charles Mintzer collection)
One extra reason to own the book is that it is accompanied by a CD containing five previously unpublished recordings!!! One of them is the Lewandowsky prayer "Hoch erhaben bist du" also recorded by cantor Shlomo Hartenberg whose voice strongly resembles Schmidt's. Several CD issues featuring the Hartenberg recording claim it is sung by Schmidt.Listen to Cantor Hartenberg on the nostalgia channel and another prayer by Schmidt in the clips below.
Buy the book if you want to hear Schmidt singing the Lewandowsky prayer. Buy the book if you want to hear Joseph Schmidt's composition of a tango!! Regrettably without voice, piano version only. Strange as Fassbind is a tenor himself. Strange too that Fassbind doesn't mention Flemish composer Hans Flower who wrote a song especially for Schmidt 'Uw glimlach is mijn zonneschijn' (your smile is my sunshine), Schmidt premiered the song on radio but a recording has not surfaced. Two other singers (sopranos) performed the song. One of them is the late Flemish soprano Mia van den Bosch who heard the tenor and the song in pre-war Antwerp. Listen to this fine singer performing (LIVE!!)the immensely moving and beautiful song in the early fifties. This extremely fine recording was discovered and preserved by Ghent collector Pierre van de Weghe who knew the soprano.
(photo editor's archive)
In the book Fassbind reveals Brussels born soprano Gita Nobis (1921 - 1990) was "befriended" and taught by Schmidt. Operanostalgia's archive contains a few rare recordings of this once very fine singer who had a career at the Munt and the Ghent opera.
Lots of information in the book too on Schmidt's alleged son Otto Kohn. Fassbind who met Otto is convinced he was, so was/is the Jewish community in Antwerp. What Otto himself has to say about it you can read in the book.
(Otto Kohn visiting the Schmidt archive, photo Alfred Fassbind)
Rare photo of Schmidt's brother Schlomo in pre-war Cernowitz - Emunah group winter session(more on Schlomo's fate is to be found in the book)
With this updated biography Fassbind has written the definitive Joseph Schmidt book, a few new facts (and perhaps even a recording) may surface sooner or later but these will then surely be uploaded to the website which the author has just launched. If you are not familiar with German the book is nevertheless of great interest as it contains a discography, a repertory list, a list with the most important dates, a survey of all his complete opera performances (all of them with casts except for Bohème) and not to forget the CD with previously unpublished recordings.
There may be room though for yet another book, : a 'scrapbook'/photo book containing the gems from the Schmidt archive. Over the years Fassbind has collected sufficient splendid material for just that!
Visit the Joseph Schmidt archive/website : click here!