Music of the Comedian Harmonists
Harold Arlen / Gioacchino Rossini / Friedrich Silcher / Cole Porter / Walter Jurmann / Albrecht Marcuse / Leusner / Peter Igelhoff / Kastilien E. Bootz / Friedrich Hollaender / Herman Hupfeld / Sten Axelson / Christian Bollmann / Ludwig Schmidseder / Rolf Marbot

Music of the Comedian Harmonists


CCS 26807 - 0723385268079

Information GreatBrittain Germany

Frommermann: creator of European voice theatre With the American soldiers who as from 1916 joined the armed forces on the European battle fields came a style of music that was new to Europe: jazz. After the war ended (November 1918) the population was desperate for entertainment. They found it in the lively dixieland, the charleston and other forms of the New Orleans jazz, and in latin-American variations such as the rumba. Songs sung in close harmony became popular as well, both spirituals and songs with wordly lyrics. The records and performances of the five-member a cappella singing group The Revelers, with songs like OlMan river and When Yuba played the rumba on the tuba was widely appreciated in Europe. After listening to a record in 1927 and hearing the perfect part-song and the catchy music, the 21 year-old stage actor Harry Frommermann became so enthused that he decided to form a similar group, with German repertoire. He smelled success in a city where light opera, revues and caberets provided colourful entertainment. He used his last money to place an advertisement for an audition. Out of over seventy candidates, only one proved to be suitable, an excellent base, the 25 year-old Robert Biberti. A beautiful tenor auditioned, as well, 23 year-old Dutchman Johan Heesters, but he pulled out, because there was no money to be made in the near future. Biberti, who was a choir singer with the Grosse Schauspielhaus in Berlin, recommended two choir colleagues, the Polish baritone Roman Cycowski and the Bulgarian tenor Ari Leschnikoff; the latter would bring a legendary glow to the group as the first tenor, with his famous high, silver sound. Leschnikoff knew a good pianist, Erwin Bootz. He revealed himself as a masterly arranger, as well. Bootz brought along a beautiful second tenor, Erich Collin. They made up the group that presented itself as the Comedian Harmonists. Frommermann filled in the third tenor part. He was the only one without vocal training; according to Bootz he had more of a speaking voice. The young men in their twenties must have been idealists, because began by intensively studying for eight months to master their part-song and their repertoire, not during the day, but at night between 12 and 4, as they held all kinds of jobs during the day besides choir singing. The famous movie star Asta Nielsen made her house available for their rehearsals. The succeeded as a group to get a contract with one of the Berlin revues. Frommermanns venture was a lucky one: their rhythmic, lively songs, the entertaining way in which they imitated musical instruments and their smooth presentation were a huge hit. This voice theatre was a novelty to the public. 

Unlike their example The Revelers, who opted for a more soulful delivery, the Harmonists sang their songs with classic charm and beauty. Recordings followed immediately. A year and a half after they had started their nightly rehearsals, the Comedian Harmonists presented themselves independently with a full evenings entertainment all of Germany turned out for. As from then they performed in dress suits. The public lapped up their songs like Veronika, der Lenz ist da, Mein kleiner grner Kaktus, or Schne Isabella von Kastilien. Abroad, at first in the Netherlands in November 1930, their success was huge as well. With a look of pride in their eyes, the six musicians were photographed inVolendam in a fishermans attire, with wooden shoes! They had a very prominent fan, the director of the Concertgebouw-orchestra, Willem Mengelberg. He invited the group to perform at a dinner in the Amstel Hotel on Sunday 29 March 1931. In the afternoon, the maestro had directed the St Matthew Passion and at night he was entertained by the songs from the Berlin singers.Endearing to see Mengelbergs joy and the friendly way he interacted with the group, wrote committee member De Booij in his diary.....

  • 1
    Veronika, der Lenz ist da
  • 2
    Eine kleine Frühlingsweise
  • 3
    Ouverture Barbier von Sevilla
  • 4
    Mein kleiner grüner Kaktus
  • 5
    Stormy Weather
  • 6
    Ali Baba
  • 7
    In einem kühlen Grunde
  • 8
    Als ik weer zin heb om te zingen
  • 9
    Wir sind von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe eingestellt
  • 10
    Schöne Isabella von Kastilien
  • 11
    Morgen muss ich fort von hier
  • 12
    Wochenend und Sonnenschein
  • 13
    Nuit et Jour
  • 14
    Der Onkel Bumba aus Kalumba
  • 15
    Kannst du pfeifen Johanna
  • 16
    Guter Mond
  • 17
  • 18
    Gitarren spielt auf
  • 19
    Lebe wohl, gute Reise