Max Lorenz (1901-75) was the great Wagner tenor of the first part of the 20th century. I’m leaving out Lauritz Melchior who inhabited a universe of his own. He made his debut in Dresden in 1927 and quickly became a great star in Europe. While the bulk of his career was in Germany and Austria, he sang in England and the Americas as well. He gave 51 performances at the Met, 1931-34 and 1947-50. He doesn’t seem to have made the same impression in New York as he did in Europe judging by the reviews of his Met performances. Perhaps it was because his time there coincided with the reign of Melchior at the Met.
Lorenz sang all the major Wagner tenor roles as well as many of the big Verdi parts, including Otello. During the thirties he was the leading tenor at the Bayreuth Festival. His was a career trajectory set in a minefield. He was a homosexual married to a Jew and was (at least for a time) a personal favorite of Hitler. Somehow he managed to get through the Nazi period relatively unscathed and able to continue his career well into the post-war years.
Wagner’s Rienzi was his attempt to be Giacomo Meyerbeer. It’s in 5 acts and lasts about a light year. It has a rousing overture and two good numbers for the tenor who sings the title role. Erstehe, hohe Roma, neu! is from Act 1. Lorenz is clearly a heldentenor of extraordinary power and focus. Rienzi’s Prayer is the best known number from the opera and is frequently performed in recitals and on recordings. It’s from the 5th Act. This recording includes the introductory music to the aria which is usually omitted in recitals.
Next is Inbrunst im Herzen (The Rome Narrative from Tannhauser). The declamatory aria receives a virtually definitive reading by Lorenz.
Lohengrin’s lyrical music is handled with ease by Lorenz who started out as a lyric tenor. Mein Lieber Schwan is from Act 1 and In Fernem Land from Act 3. The latter is likely the most refined version (perhaps overly so) you’ll ever hear, probably because it was recorded late in the tenor’s career.
The end of Act 1 of Die Walküre presents the most human and personally affecting music in the entire Ring Cycle, perhaps in all of Wagner. I’ll start with Winterstürme followed by Du Bist Der Lenz. The soprano is Margarete Teschemacher who has a lush and beautifully presented soprano. Though the two pieces are connected in the score. The recording were made at different times. Siegmund pulls Nothung (the sword) out of tree where Wotan, his father, had put it. In the next Ring opera, Siegfried, his son refashions it. ‘Nothung! Nothung! Neidliches schwert!’. Lorenz’s interpretation lacks the wild abandon that Melchior brought to the piece.
Lorenz’s sang a lot of Verdi – all of it, as far as I can tell, in German. Here, in the order of composition are five Verdi selections. I’ve used their Italian names. The Love duet from Un Ballo in Maschera features Hilde Konetzni as Amelia. She’s the lady in the picture above the title, Lorenz is to her left and Wilhelm Furtwängler is at her right. There’s a pause in the middle where there’s an edit to shorten the duet. Lorenz has all the power and control needed for Verdi. It’s his sound that’s not quite right for the Italian master. It’s very Germanic – right for the North a little off for the South. Also from Ballo is Ma se m’è forza perderti.
The great tenor aria O tu che in seno agli angeli is also abbreviated. Once you get past the Germanic sound, it’s a fine interpretation. Lorenz’s big tone and its excellent control are very convincing.
Celeste Aida is given a sensitive rendition that is both restrained and powerful; the climactic high B flat is taken forte and is a bit strained. Finally, here is the overpowering duet that closes Act 2 of Otello. Mathieu Ahlersmeye is the baritone. Si pel ciel. In this recording, Lorenz is in full fettle and has the both dark sound and vocal fury that the part requires.
Below is a very interesting documentary about Lorenz. Well worth the almost an hour it takes to view it. Of course, like any YouTube video it may have the forward life span of a snowflake.