Max Raabe and his Palast Orchester‘s recent performance at Carnegie Hall prompted the following question: why such a fine rendition of the German cabaret songs and a not quite convincing rendition of songs in English of the same era? Listen first to his signature song “Heute Nacht or nie” ( click here) then to the way he interprets the great 1931 classic “Dream a little dream of me”( click here ).Now compare Raabe’s interpretation to that of the Dorsey Brothers (click here ).Which do you prefer? Don’t you agree that Raabe does not quite pull it off?
The answer to the why lies; I suspect and look forward to your comments, in the influence of the Schubert Lieder vocal style on German songs in general and, likely, on the vocal training of Max Raabe. Listening again to “Heute Nacht or nie” I cannot help but be reminded of Dieter Fischer-Dieskau’s interpretation of Schubert’s Winterreisen Op. D 911 (click here).The vocal style used to sing Lieder is well suited, and expected, for many German cabaret songs but is not suited to the American songs of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and many others of that era. This may explain why Raabe’s interpretation of American songs did not sound quite as convincing as his interpretation of German cabaret songs.