HERMAN PREY : Stille meine Liebe (DVD)



I’m sure every vocal buff will be highly interested in Hermann Prey’s relationship with his wife and his children. “Obsessive” is the word they repeatedly use for a life that mainly consisted of travelling, rehearsing, singing, travelling etc. etc. One of the children clearly states they often didn’t see their father for months at a stretch. A daughter tells us that her mother had to start her life from scratch after her father’s fatal heart attack as for forty years she had only lived for him, looked for his needs and had accompanied him on all his exhaustive trips. With his fatal stroke she had nothing left to do. Prey dearly loved his children but a world career was even more important. Therefore raising the children was the task of grandparents. Even in the rare moments he was at home Prey was studying, making appointments for concerts or rehearsing for his own show on television. There was never a dull moment and never a moment of relaxation. One of his accompanists tells of the amazing feat that Prey even sang six concerts on six consecutive evenings. The baritone was always taking and leaving air planes, hopping into taxis and resting a few moments in his hotel room before leaving for the concert hall or the opera house. One is reminded of the nerve racking life of Lucia Popp; another of those singers obsessed with work and nothing else. Prey must have been strong as a horse to lead such a life till the inevitable moment the body couldn’t take it any more and though his doctors warned him he didn’t heed them. The way Prey lived his live definitely didn’t inspire his own children. His son Florian, himself the owner of a remarkable voice which he shows in a fine song, concluded that a world career wasn’t worth while being a nomad and decided to devote himself to his family and his artistic hobbies. All in all viewing this long and intimate look into Prey’s life one heartily agrees with tenor Jonas Kaufman who muses he has only got one life and clearly says he often feels miserable and no love for music can redeem the negative moments of sleeping in foreign places.


The documentary is rich in historical footage as Prey was almost from the start of his career a compulsive moviemaker of his family, himself and who knows whatever was not used. And how are those rich archives used by the producer-directors┬á for those music lovers who want to know something more than just family relations ? The answer is simple: not at all. No word is spoken on Prey’s career. Literally no word. Nothing is told on his rise, his early struggles and his successes. Nobody says one syllable on Prey’s voice; the word baritone is even not pronounced. We don’t get a clue on how the voice started out and evolved during the career. Nothing is said on the relationship and the rivalry with Fischer-Dieskau or on Prey’s artistic choices which often went from the sublime to some startlingly popular pop songs (all sung with utter conviction). The word “volkst├╝mlich” is never uttered though Prey was one of the last classical singers everybody in the German speaking world knew and loved. In short this DVD will not give you even the barest facts of Prey’s career and voice. This is strictly Prey and his family. May I throw caution to the wind ? The producers inform us this documentary took them three years to make. As a former tv-producer/journalist I’m not boasting when writing I could have done this kind of psychological portrait in three month’s time and even then I would have succeeded in telling something more on the music and the voice of this wonderful singer.

Jan Neckers