Skip to main content

Friederich Schorr, Austro-Hungarian bass baritone

By March 15, 2024No Comments

For someone as famous as he was, there is very little information on the internet about Frederich Schorr. What there is, I have given you below. What there is especially to note is Schorr’s legato. An old friend of mine once said that if you have legato, you have everything. I believe that this is true to a great degree.

I have posted this piece a lot. It seems that every Wagnerian baritone has sung it, and it is a good gauge among singers. Plus, I think that this is one of the most beautiful pieces in the vocal literature.

Wagner, Die Walküre, Wotans Abschied

Leb wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind!
Du meines Herzens heiligster Stolz!
Leb wohl! Leb wohl! Leb wohl!

Muss ich dich meiden,
und darf nicht minnig
mein Gruß dich mehr grüßen;
sollst du nun nicht mehr neben mir reiten,
noch Met beim Mahl mir reichen;
muss ich verlieren dich, die ich liebe,
du lachende Lust meines Auges:
ein bräutliches Feuer soll dir nun brennen,
wie nie einer Braut es gebrannt!
Flammende Glut umglühe den Fels;
mit zehrenden Schrecken
scheuch’ es den Zagen;
der Feige fliehe Brünnhildes Fels! –
Denn einer nur freie die Braut,
der freier als ich, der Gott!

Der Augen leuchtendes Paar,
das oft ich lächelnd gekost,
wenn Kampfeslust ein Kuss dir lohnte,
wenn kindisch lallend der Helden Lob
von holden Lippen dir floss:
dieser Augen strahlendes Paar,
das oft im Sturm mir geglänzt,
wenn Hoffnungssehnen das Herz mir sengte,
nach Weltenwonne mein Wunsch verlangte
aus wild webendem Bangen:
zum letztenmal
letz’ es mich heut’
mit des Lebewohles letztem Kuss!
Dem glücklichen Manne
glänze sein Stern:
dem unseligen Ew’gen
muss es scheidend sich schließen.

Denn so kehrt der Gott sich dir ab,
so küsst er die Gottheit von dir!

Loge, hör’! Lausche hieher!
Wie zuerst ich dich fand, als feurige Glut,
wie dann einst du mir schwandest,
als schweifende Lohe;
wie ich dich band, bann ich dich heut’!
Herauf, wabernde Lohe,
umlodre mir feurig den Fels!

Loge! Loge! Hieher!

Wer meines Speeres Spitze fürchtet,
durchschreite das Feuer nie!

Wagner, The Valkyrie, Wotan’s Farewell

Farewell, thou valiant, glorious child!
Thou once the holiest pride of my heart!
Farewell! farewell! farewell!
(very passionately) Must I forsake thee,
and may my welcome
of love no more greet thee;
may’st thou now ne’er more ride as my comrade,
nor bear me mead at banquet;
must I abandon thee, whom I loved so,
thou laughing delight of my eyes?
Such a bridal fire for thee shall be kindled
as ne’er yet has burned for a bride!
Threatening flames shall flare round the fell:
let withering terrors daunt the craven!
let cowards fly from Brünnhilde’s rock!
For one alone winneth the bride;
one freer than I, the god!

(Brünnhilde, deeply moved, sinks in ecstasy on
Wotan’s breast: he holds her in a long embrace.)
(She throws her head back again and, still
embracing Wotan, gazes with deep enthusiasm in his eyes.)

Thy brightly glittering eyes,
that, smiling, oft I caressed,
when valor won a kiss as guerdon,
when childish lispings of heroes’ praise
from sweetest lips has flowed forth:
those gleaming radiant eyes
that oft in storms on me shone,
when hopeless yearning my heart had wasted,
when world’s delights all my wishes wakened,
thro’ wild wildering sadness:
once more today, lured by their light,
my lips shall give them love’s farewell!
On mortal more blessed once may they beam:
on me, hapless immortal,
must they close now forever.
(He clasps her head in his hands.)
For so turns the god now from thee,
so kisses thy godhood away!
(He kisses her long on the eyes. She sinks back with
closed eyes, unconscious, in his arms. He gently bears
her to a low mossy mound, which is overshadowed
by a wide-spreading fir tree, and lays her upon it.)

(He looks upon her and closes her helmet: his eyes
then rest on the form of the sleeper, which he now
completely covers with the great steel shield of the
Valkyrie. He turns slowly away, then again turns
around with a sorrowful look.)

(He strides with solemn decision to the middle of
the stage and directs the point of his spear toward a
large rock.)

Loge, hear! Listen to my word!
As I found thee of old, a glimmering flame,
as from me thou didst vanish,
in wandering fire;
as once I stayed thee, stir I thee now!
Appear! come, waving fire,
and wind thee in flames round the fell!

(During the following he strikes the rock thrice
with his spear.)

Loge! Loge! appear!
(A flash of flame issues from the rock, which swells
to an ever-brightening fiery glow.)
(Flickering flames break forth.)

(Bright shooting flames surround Wotan. With his
spear he directs the sea of fire to encircle the rocks; it
presently spreads toward the background, where it
encloses the mountain in flames.)

He who my spearpoint’s sharpness feareth
shall cross not the flaming fire!

(He stretches out the spear as a spell. He gazes
sorrowfully back on Brünnhilde. Slowly he turns to
depart. He turns his head again and looks back. He
diasappears through the fire.)

(The curtain falls.)

In early May 1840, Schumann turned to the quintessential poet of German Romanticism, Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff (1788–1857), for another ‘song circle’. In a letter to Clara he called the twelve songs that make up the Liederkreis, Op 39 ‘my most romantic music ever, with much of you in it, dearest Clara’. Drawing variously on poems from Eichendorff’s stories Viel Lärmen um nichts (‘Much ado about nothing’) and Ahnung und Gegenwart (‘Present and Presentiment’), and his novel Dichter und ihre Gesellen (‘Poets and their companions’), these twelve vignettes are linked by recurrent, typically Eichendorffian themes—loss and loneliness, nocturnal mystery and menace, memory and antiquity, wistful reverie and rapturous soaring.

I am very fortunate in that the person who posted this song cycle also posted translations of the poems in the video itself.

Friedrich Schorr
September 2, 1888 – August 14, 1953

Schorr was a renowned Austrian-Hungarian bass-baritone opera singer of Jewish origin (his father was a cantor). He later became a naturalized American.

Schorr is recognized as the greatest Wagnerian bass-baritone of his generation, arguably of the entire 20th century and was particularly famous for his profound portrayals of Wotan in Der Ring des Nibelungen and Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. He was celebrated, too, for his appearances as Don Pizarro in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

His voice was powerful, steady, and rich-toned, with a beautiful mezza voce. He placed a special and an emphasis on maintaining a smooth, legato line in his singing, with no trace of Sprechgesang. Towards the end of Schorr’s career, his extreme top notes became somewhat ‘wooden’, however, as the result of many years of strenuous usage.

Schorr was particularly famous for his profound portrayals of Wotan in Der Ring des Nibelungen and Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. He was celebrated, too, for his appearances as Don Pizarro in Beethoven’s Fidelio.