Thursday 29 February 2024

Herbert Ernst Groh - Another glorious "German" tenor

I have long been a great lover of the German tradition in classical singing (including Austria and Switzerland), with Fritz Wunderlich being among the candidates for my favourite-ever singer, and Richard Tauber a more recent "discovery" (i.e I have only recently appreciated his genius). 

Following this line, I came upon this delightful recording of a piece by Lehar sung by Herbert Ernst Groh, who was apparently a Swiss tenor of the middle twentieth century. He has a naturally lyrical and high-lying tenor voice, with wonderfully sweet, ringing, and controlled top notes (on display at the end of this piece). 

One strength of the German tenor tradition is that even with such a light and high voice as Groh's, there is a masculine strength and virility. This seems to come from a throat-focused and "muscular" (rather than "resonance") based method of production. This is seldom the case for such types of tenor among Italians (or Russians, or English for that matter!). 

Speaking more generally; to my ear, the German and Italian (which includes Spanish and South American) operatic tradition gives an utterly different vocal sound and method, with very different strengths. 

I could not say which I prefer - and fortunately, I do not need to choose between (say) Wunderlich and Pavarotti! I certainly prefer Pavarotti in Verdi, Donizetti or Bellini; or Luigi Alva in Rossini; but clearly Wunderlich in Mozart, Weber or Handel - and Germanic singers are clearly better (usually) in Richard Strauss or (especially) Wagner. 

The point is that the operatic tradition, and indeed all classical singing, is mostly divided between German and Italian: nearly-all of the best and most-performed pieces are from these two traditions.

I say again: we are fortunate not to be compelled to choose-between them!



Poppop said...

I also rather lately became aware of the genius of Richard Tauber upon listening to his Schubert and Schumann Lieder recordings. Before that point, I knew him as a charming old German fellow with a monocle who sang operetta and Vienna City of My Dreams but had sold out and gone hollywood. I also dig Fritz W. and hope we hear him regularly in the next world.

Poppop said...

Meant to add - thanks for bringing Herbert to my attention. I will give him a spin and see if he comes to Groh on me...