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Ute Beckert singt und spricht Theodor Fontane
Johannes BARTZ (1848–1933)
1. Frühling, Op. 33 No. 2 [1:17]
2. Poem: Erst die Fremde lehrt uns, was wir an der Heimat besitzen [0:27]
Konrad GRETSCHER (1856–1929)
3. Stille Heimkehr [2:17]
4. Poem: Glück [0:50]
Carl WITTING (1823–1918)
5. Um Dich, Op. 24 No. 2 [2:12]
6. Nach dem Sturm, Op. 24 No. 4 [1:58]
7. Poem: Heute früh [1:02]
Fritz KÖGEL (1860–1904)
8. Denkst du verschwundener Tage, Marie? [3:22]
9. Poem: Lebenswege [1:21]
Richard BARDT (1850–1923)
10. Ausgang, Op. 16 No. 6 [2:06]
11. Poem: O trübe diese Tage nicht [1:03]
Ernst MIELCK (1877–1899)
12. Heimat [2:43]
13. Das Fischermädchen [2:15]
14. Poem: Grüss Gott dich, Heimat [2:00]
Rudolf GRITZNER (?)
15. Mittag [2:30]
16. Poem: So und nicht anders [0:58]
Ernst BAEKER (b. 1866)
17. Herr von Ribbeck auf Ribbeck im Havelland, Op. 14 No. 2 [5:07]
18. Seydlitz und der Bürgermeister von Ohlau, Op. 17 No. 2 [3:22]
19. Poem: Aus den „Wanderungen durch die Mark Brandenburg“ [2:05]
Willy von MOELLENDORF (1872–1934)
20. Die zwei Raben, Op. 11 No. 3 [3:07]
21. Poem: Spruch [0:45]
Hugo KAUN (1863–1932)
22. Der Gast, Op. 46 No. 2 [1:57]
23. Das Fischermädchen, Op. 37 No. 2 [2:18]
24. Poem: Spaziergang mit Storm [4:38]
August SCHÄFFER (1814–1879)
25. Der alte Derffling, Op. 33 No. 3 [4:02]
26. Poem: Im Garten [0:40]
Erich J. WOLFF (1874–1913)
27. Alles still [2:44]
Ferdinand SIEBER (1822–1895)
28. Guter Rat, Op. 70 No. 2 [2:55]
Ute Beckert (soprano and narration), Frank Wasser (piano)
rec. date and venue unknown
German texts included
ANTES EDITION BM319225 [62:19]

Theodor Fontane (1819–1898) was a German pharmacist, who from the 1850s worked as a journalist, war correspondent and theatre critic. In the 1860s he started writing ballads – his Archibald Douglas was set to music by Carl Loewe – and he produced about two thousand poems and ballads but it is primarily for his novels, written towards the end of his life, that he will be remembered in German literature history. Irrungen, Wirrungen (1888) and Effi Briest (1895) are probably his best known works.

On this disc German soprano Ute Beckert sandwiches musical settings with readings of a number of his poems in a highly interesting programme. I bet most of the composers, mainly from the 19th century and the early 20th century, are unknown, even to many German music-lovers. “Many of them were at one time quite well-established and respected musicians”, Ute Beckert writes in the programme notes, “but unfortunately most of their works have been lost among those of their more famous contemporaries.” Having myself browsed through lesser-known music from time to time I know that more often than not one comes upon something that immediately appeals to you and quite often when playing such things to musical friends the reaction is: “Why isn’t this music played?” Probably the reason is that through the years a canon has been established where there is a sharp dividing line between the “greats” and the others who are rated as second class. But in reality there is no such dividing line: there are compositions by “greats” that are being played just because they are by one of the “greats”, whereas an unprejudiced ear can find gems that turn out to be written by someone we have never heard about.

This is the case also with this programme. I am not going to argue that this is a string of pearls of forgotten masterpieces, but there is a lot to admire and return to. Some songs are simple strophic settings, melodious and agreeable – and unpretentious. And writing a good melody is also an ability that is not given to everyone. The first two songs are of this kind, August Schäffer’s Der alte Derffling has a catchy melody that could be derived from a revival hymn and Sieber’s concluding Guter Rat is truly lovely in its simplicity.

Others are more artful. Carl Witting employs a more elaborate accompaniment, Richard Barth has a rich harmonic language in Wagnerian vein, and the Finnish composer Ernst Mielck, who died at the age of 22, has such a personal touch in his two songs that one wonders what could have become of him. He studied in Berlin with Max Bruch who regarded him as one of his best pupils. Willy von Moellendorf’s evocative Die zwei Raben has an expressive piano part and there are echoes of Hugo Wolf. This composer by the way was an early practitioner of quarter-tone music. Also Hugo Kaun has a personal voice and in the bleak Der Gast the threatening piano part reveals the true nature of the visitor.

Ute Beckert has a beautiful lyric voice and she sings these songs with warmth and honesty, without trying to invest them with more meaning than they have. She brings out the melodies and enunciates the text without undue word-pointing. Her reading of the poems is also simple and natural but now and then she becomes more eager, more emphatic and makes one listen more closely. I would have liked also those poems printed in the booklet, not only the sung ones. Frank Wasser is a responsive accompanist but the recording is unfortunately unkind to him. Set down in very resonant acoustics the piano tone is muddled – it’s almost the effect when a piano is played in a large empty church with the sustaining pedal constantly pressed. Otherwise the balance between singer and instrument is all right.

Besides the sung texts – in German only; the disc is obviously primarily aimed at a German speaking market – there are good notes (in German and English). These include valuable information about these today obscure composers, one of them, Ernst Baeker, born in 1866 but, strangely enough, no year of his death is known.

Göran Forsling 

 

 

 


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