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Hermann Jadlowker, Tenor (1877-1953)
Giacomo Meyerbeer LES HUGUENOTS
Plus blanche que la blanche hermine
My personal opinion: If there is the talk of latvian tenor Hermann Jadlowker (1877-1953), you can be sure, you will always find chorus of praise and tags like "The most unusual tenor in history" or "The greatest tenor-virtuoso!", and that his "voice and skills were unique" (Tom Kaufman, Jadlowker´s biograph). Actually, Jadlowker was something special. Michael Scott wrote, that "listen to him takes your breath away". But it´s also a fact (and you will hardly find some critical reviews which are not outshined by endless words of admiration), that his singing anyhow was impersonal and self-pleasing. One critic recognized quite rightly, Jadlowker damaged his voice early in his career with unsuitable roles like Parsifal, Florestan or Otello. As early as in 1919, his operatic career declined when Jadlowker was only 42 years old. It was the price he paid for a noncritical repertory far beyond his (vocal) range. It´s much to easy to praise again and again his "Ecco ridente in cielo" as the "most complete rendition of this aria, or his "Fuor del mar" from IDOMENEO. Granted, Hermann Jadlowker was a master of artistic ornamentations, but his voice was also dry and crisp. And it speaks for Tom Kaufman, when he wrote that "he would have been even better in Rossini's OTELLO than in Verdi's". So far, so good, but Jadlowker´s voice also lacked mediterranean warmth. Someone even said, his voice was guttural and fibrous. In other words: The voice in and of itself was unattractive. Attractive on the contrary was the way how he masked his vocal deficits with his strenghts: He performed his stunning ability for "fioritura" and "abbellimenti" (Ottavio´s "Il mio tesoro" or Diavolo´s "Mes amis"). I have strange feelings hearing his recordings - I admire his technique, but I never have the wish to hear more of him! Again Michael Scott, who wrote, that Jadlowker´s "Canto di Bravura" became the only "reason for existence of his singing", perhaps a harsh judgement, but maybe justified. Another critic stated, Jadlowker´s singing always is astounding, but hardly delighting. After his career, Jadlowker returned to his roots and became a cantor at the synagoge of Riga (where he occasionally had sung when he was the leading tenor of the Berlin Court Opera House).
According to my own taste, Hermann Jadlowker was an artistic rarity, and I really can´t agree, "he was the finest german tenor of his generation". His technique was dazzling, but at the same time there was an emotionally distance in his singing. Jadlowker once said, that opera never was close to his heart. We can´t blame him for this, due to his strong religious roots apparently he was at the bottom of his heart a cantor (Tucker and Schmidt later also sang in synagogues). In Opera, he did the best he could do (and the results of his amazing repertory were astounding). But in his recordings you will always feel these strange distance (Just hear, how impassive he demanded the vow of love in the duet from BALLO IN MASCHERA with Maria Labia as Amelia). I beg your pardon for my opinion, but for me Hermann Jadlowker was a limited singer. No one will ever turn to him to hear Verdi or Wagner, but if you want to experience the virtuosity of the typical "Canto fiorito", you can´t ignore his renditions of "Ecco ridente", "Ich baue ganz auf deine Stärke" or "Plus blanche que la blanche hermine" from LES HUGUENOTS (Impressing sung with a fulminant trill in the finale. We didn´t hear such a rendition with the dramatic clarion-toned Paul Franz (1876-1958) or the remarkable but underrated Albert Vaguet (1865-1943), who made most of his recordings after an accident whereby he lost one leg).
Hermann Jadlowker: The rarity of a tenor virtuoso, a gem in the history collection of amazing singing, a real show-piece. No more, no less.
Next time: Karl Richter´s preferred Bach-Contralto.
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