Victor Herbert, Collected Songs New World Records 80726-2 (4 CDS)

 Victor Herbert: 102 Songs not in Operettas 

(New World 80726-2)

 

Fanfare Magazine–Review by Henry Fogel (September/October 2012)

 

Henry Fogel started out his review in a way that is most appreciated.  He understood and outlined why the recording was so important:  a recording can add to public awareness, can provide an insight into the history of music and the building blocks of compositional progression.

“Some recordings are important more for documentary reasons than for listening pleasure.  Others are enjoyable listening but add little to our knowledge of the history of music.  Many, of course, are not memorable at all.  A select few manage to achieve stature both for their entertainment value and because they add significantly to our knowledge.  This set falls into that latter category, though not without qualification.  (Emphasis Added)

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“It [the qualification] is the unevenness of the singing.  The range of vocal quality is, to be honest, too wide for a project of this magnitude and importance.

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“Overall, however, there is so much to discover here, and enough good singing to outweigh the problems, that the set is highly recommendable.”

We also deeply appreciate the comments Mr. Fogel made with regard to our liner notes.  We spent a great deal of time researching all of the relevant information; and, because of space and financial considerations, we excluded as much as we included.  Thus, we find these words reassuring because they address our educational mission, both for the material that we recorded and the liner notes that accompanied the recording:

“The notes are a model of what notes should be for a project of this nature.  We learn a lot about Victor Herbert, and about the places of these songs in his career.”

International Record Review–Review by Nigel Simeone (October 2012)

Nigel Simeone reviewed the 4-CD set and perceived what we had set out to demonstrate:  that Victor Herbert grew and changed as a composer over the almost 40 years that he resided and composed music in America.

(I)  Mr. Simeone noted the cultural influence of German lieder on Herbert; he also compared Herbert’s lieder favorably with those of major German composers, such as Robert Schumann.  We have not included his discussion of many of the individual lieder:

“Herbert’s remarkable versatility is very apparent in this fascinating set of songs, but so is the sensitivity of his response to German poetry and his inventiveness.

“The first disc is likely to be of particular interest to Lieder enthusiasts.  Herbert’s earliest songs are settings of German poets, and the music is rich and late-Romantic in terms of its harmonies, but this is often combined with a Schumann-like intimacy.”

(II)  Mr. Simeone specifically remarked on the compositional progression that Herbert went through:

“Anyone interested in Herbert—or in the early development of music in the Broadway theatre—is likely to find much here that is fascinating and often beguiling, ranging from the earliest voice-and-piano songs on German poems, right up to Herbert’s work in the early 1920’s (he died in 1924).”

(III)  Taking nothing away from Mr. Fogel’s review at Fanfare, it is clear that the performances of the singers is subjective with each reviewer, and we are pleased that Mr. Simeone found the singers’ work to be meritorious (in his discussion of individual performers and their songs in his full review):

“The standard of all the singers is high.  Their work is greatly enhanced by the consistently impressive piano playing of William Hicks, who deserves the warmest praise.”

(IV)  Finally, we are pleased, once again, that our liner notes are appreciated:

“The sound is good throughout this set and documentation is impeccable.  Complete texts are included in the booklet, as are detailed notes on the songs, enhanced by well-chosen illustrations.  In short, it’s hard to imagine this project being presented with more care or thoroughness.  This set may have specialist appeal but I certainly recommend it:  I found it completely fascinating.”

Art Times–Review by Frank Behrens (August 2012)

Frank Behrens wrote a review from his standpoint as a teacher, complimenting us on the educational value that this release adds to the previously available material:

“As a resource base for the opera and operetta classes I teach, I need as many CDs and DVDs as possible. So when I saw “Victor Herbert: Collected Songs” in a boxed set of 4 CDs from New World Records, I quickly had thoughts of “Naughty Marietta,” “The Red Mill,” and “Babes in Toyland.”

“To my surprise, most of the 102 selections in this set are songs not written for Herbert’s operettas. The program opens with German Lieder, and then there are songs written for films, songs written for the Ziegfeld Follies, few of which are known to me and all of which are fascinating.  There is even a section at the end of CD 4 of unpublished songs. The texts of the German songs are in the informative booklet with English translations.  The songs sung in English can be seen on or downloaded from the New World Records website.

“So after an initial disappointment, I realized what a treasure chest of special material I now have to give added interest to talks about Herbert and his successors. There is, of course, great variety in the music. Between the somber Lieder and the patriotic “When Uncle Sam is ruler of the sea” and “Old Ireland shall be free,” there is fluff like “The twirly little girlies at the end of the line” and songs with much early 20th-century sentimentality.  There are 16 vocalists to give further variety to the program, accompanied by piano. This set is highly recommended to students or just plain lovers of the early musical theatre. Well done, New World Records!” (Emphasis Added)

Musical Theatre International–Review by Peter Filichia (December 7, 2012)

Peter Filichia is a former critic for the Newark Star-Ledger and its television station, News 12 New Jersey.  He has served four terms as president of the Drama Desk and has been head of the voting committee and the emcee of the Theatre World Awards.  He is also the author of a delightful book about the history of the Broadway musicals that did not win the Tony Award, entitled Strippers, Showgirls and Sharks.

His review highlights Herbert’s progression as a composer, the importance of period style being embedded in a restoration of historical music and Herbert’s ability to capture the sound that would one day be a part of the musical theatre:

“Then how about the four-CD set of Victor Herbert: Collected Songs? Herbert (1859-1924), who wrote the music for 46 (yes, 46) musicals, hailed from Dublin, whose influence can occasionally be heard in his luscious melodies. He could do it all, from march to waltz, and his native elegance and daintiness is shown to great advantage here.

“What’s also impressive is how many of our current musical theater performers –George Dvorsky, Aaron Lazar, Jeanne Lehman, Rebecca Luker, Daniel Marcus – get into the spirit of early 20th century music under the watchful eyes of arranger Larry Moore and pianist William Hicks. These 102 selections sound as if they’re authentic recordings from the period – just without the hiss and scratches for which 78s became saddled.

“When one thinks of the Ziegfeld Follies, Herbert may not immediately come to mind, but here are 14 of his selections from Follies dating from 1917 to 1923. One can even infer that “The Old-Fashioned Garden of Mine” (from the 1923 edition) is what Jule Styne had in mind when composing “His Love Makes Me Beautiful.” And speaking of beautiful, there are quite a few beauties mixed in with some amusing comedy songs, too.”

 Playbill–ON THE RECORD–Review by Steven Suskin (May 27, 2012)

This review was written by Steven Suskin, author of four books, including Show TunesThe Sound of Broadway Music:  A Book of Orchestrators and OrchestrationsSecond Act Trouble, and Opening Night on Broadway.  Mr. Suskin writes with great appreciation for the fact that this is an historical set that captures music that had hitherto been lost in the archives of the Library of Congress, and so almost all of his review is included.  His summary at the end of the review is why the Foundation wanted to make this recording:  “So this is a job worth doing and well done.”

“These art songs illustrate the strength and weakness of this ambitious set, which comes under the umbrella of the “Foundations of the American Musical Theater” series from New World Records. Fans of Victor Herbert will no doubt be beside themselves with this carefully assembled and produced collection; this set not only rescues numerous songs from obscurity — including a good number which were thus far unrecorded — it puts them in the hands of singers who know how to sing them. (Broadwayites will be glad to find Rebecca Luker, George Dvorsky, Ron Raines and Aaron Lazar among the group. Piano accompaniment is provided by William Hicks.) Fans will further appreciate that these CDs are not crammed with Herbert’s greatest hits; you can get them elsewhere, this set is reserved for songs you never hear.

“Those who are unfamiliar with Herbert, though, might quickly think — well, these songs aren’t very impressive. If you don’t already know and appreciate Herbert’s greatest hits, this collection won’t take you very far. I personally would be thrilled to have an expertly made set of 102 obscure Gershwin or Rodgers or Arlen songs. But if I’d never heard the best of Gershwin, I don’t imagine I’d come away a fan after hearing ten of those primitive songs from various editions of George White’s Scandals.

“And so it is with this Herbert set, which in addition to the German art songs includes a fair share of show tunes and a broad swath of Irish art songs. Also patriotic songs, songs written for newspaper concerts, a march for the Dodge Brothers of old Detroit, and more. Fans of Victor Herbert will be enthralled by it all, although I wonder just how many fans of Victor Herbert there are nowadays. And how do said fans — presumably all of whom were born long after his death in 1924—become acquainted with his music?

“So this is a job worth doing and well done.” (Emphasis Added)

Talkin’ Broadway Sound Advice–Review by Rob Lester (December 13, 2012)

Rob Lester wrote a glowing review that started out “Hooray for Herbert.”  Mr. Lester is a fixture on Broadway but reviews a wide range of recordings.  In this review, he spent a great deal of time discussing many of the 102 songs in the collection.  We have edited the review in order to emphasize the value Mr. Lester placed upon the additions to the historical record of Herbert’s music:

“It’s a wonderful feeling, finding an eye-opening, ear-opening dazzling treasure-chest of songs with melodies by a master, many of which have never (or rarely) been recorded.

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“Accompaniment is the versatile, song-serving pianist William Hicks who lets the song be front and center, never distracting, but forceful and energizing when need be, and gentle and understated when embellishment would be overkill.  The singers embrace the styles comfortably, seeming to be neither aloof nor cautiously intimidated by the floweriness, stiff stances or lushness.

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“The great breadth and variety of styles in Herbert’s work stands out on this fascinating historical survey.

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“Just one part of the label’s dedication to earlier musical theatre, the Herbert collection is a powerful and persuasive case of the composer’s importance, influence, and versatility.”

We think it is worth noting that the release was included in Talkin’ Broadway Sound Advice top 10 Vocal Albums of 2012.