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Nicolae BRETAN (1887–1968)
My Lieder-Land: The Songs of Nicolae Bretan - Vol. 2

Ludovic Konya (baritone), Ferdinand Weiss (piano)(1-6, 9-24); Martin Berkovsky (piano)(7-8)
rec. live, in concert in Budapest, Hungary, September 1973 (1); live in concert in Cluj, Romania, 20 November 1975 (2-6); live in concert, University of Maryland, USA, 28 March 1976 (7-8); live in concert, Tirgu-Mures, Romania, Autumn 1973 (9-10); at Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA, August 1974 (11-21); at Radio Cluj, Romania, 14, 16, 18 June 1975 (22-24)
Sung in Romanian (1, 3-13, 15-17, 22, 24), Hungarian (14, 18, 20, 21, 23) and German (2, 19)
Texts and translations enclosed
NIMBUS NI 5640 [75:10]
Experience Classicsonline


1. Ş-acele dulci păreri de rău (And that sweet remorse) [1:23]
2. Die Botschaft (The emissary) [1:44]
3. Pădurea (The forest) [2:52]
4. Gazel (Gazel) [1:26]
5. La groapa lui Laie (At the grave of Laie) [5:12]
6. Lună, Lună, stea vicleană (Moon, Moon, you wily star) [0:59]
7. Pe lîngă Plopii fără soţ (Where mateless poplars grow) [2:53]
8. Steluţa (Little star) [4:17]
9. Crisanteme (Chrysanthemums) [2:23]
10. La steaua (Toward the star) [3:04]
11. Ce te legeni, codrule? (O forest, why do you sway?) [4:16]
12. Din noaptea …(From the night …) [2:42]
13. Srelele-n cer (Stars in the sky) [3:08]
14. Mammon-szerzetes zsoltára [Psalm of Mammon’s monk] [4:56]
15. Singur (Alone) [3:18]
16. Prea sus aţi fost! (So far above!) [3:40]
17. Septembrie cu roze (September with roses) [5:10]
18. Új könyvem fedelére (On my new book) [2:13]
19. Es war ein alter König (There was an old King) [2:08]
20. In memoriam E. (In Memoriam E.) [2:39]
21. Zilahi ember nótája (Ballad of a man from Zilah) [2:55]
22. Casa noastră (Our house) [2:25]
23. A maradandóság városában [In the city of Permanence] [5:23]
24. Mi-am făcut un cîntec (I fashioned myself a song) [4:02]

The arguably most important works of Nicolae Bretan are his operas, in particular Horia, a recording of which I hope to review within a couple of weeks. This will be followed by three further operas. Bretan’s operatic writing was limited to a period of less than twenty years between the two world wars, while composing songs occupied him throughout his life. The collection "My Lieder-Land" alone contains 218 songs, which means that the two volumes with Ludovic Konya (Vol. 1 see review) plus the discs with Ruxandra Donose (review) and Alexandru Agache (review) – also on Nimbus – cover only about one third of his oeuvre. Naturally one wishes that some adventurous company would grasp the opportunity to issue further volumes, but we must be extremely grateful for what is available, especially since all three singers are such committed advocates of Bretan’s music – none more so than Ludovic Konya, who also has a disc with Bretan’s sacred songs to his credit.

As in the previous volume Konya’s singing is wholehearted and musically nuanced. He obviously relishes the texts, whether in lyrical, dramatic or humoristic vein. He can muster tremendous power when needed but it is his soft singing that impresses the most. Sometimes close to crooning, he never steps over the border and sentimentalizes the songs. On the other hand he avoids investing too much artfulness in music that is basically simple, melodious and of a kind that is close to the folksong. In many ways he reminds me of the great German baritone Heinrich Schlusnus, who was one of the foremost interpreters of German Lieder between the wars. Schlusnus continued singing into the early 1950s, recording some Richard Strauss and Mahler with orchestra only a year or so before his untimely death in 1952. He can be seen and heard on youtube link in a Strauss song recorded in 1944. Even though his baritone was more lyrical, lighter and higher than Ludovic Konya’s, his unaffected way of performing is similar.

One can buy this volume for the sake of the singer but the main reason is the songs themselves. Melodious, expressive and highly personal utterances they should be known and performed just as often as many of the songs that appear over and over again in recital and on disc. I have played some of them to music-lovers who were quite stunned. ‘Who is this Bretan and why haven’t we heard of him and heard this wonderful music?’ has been the recurring reaction. There are many possible answers. One is that the languages – Romanian and Hungarian – are not easily accessible to the rest of the world. However he also set about fifty German texts. Another answer is that since he was declared a non-person by the authorities in Romania after the war, since he refused to join the Communist Party, his music has not been available. I have no proof for this, but it might well be that the live and radio recordings by Ludovic Konya from the 1970s on this and the companion discs, were the first attempts to re-establish him as composer. If so, these are events of the greatest historical value – besides their self-evident intrinsic musical worth.

On this disc there are two German songs: the light and humoristic Die Botschaft (tr. 2) and Es war ein alter König (tr. 19), both settings of Heinrich Heine. They could be good starting points before one explores the rest of the programme, which is literally littered with gems. At the grave of Laie (tr. 5) – noble and solemn but achingly beautiful. Then there is the superb Crisanteme, the suavely sung Stars in the sky (tr. 13), the yearning but melodically catchy September with roses (tr. 17) and In Memoriam E. (tr. 20), a setting of his own poem on visiting the graveyard where his younger brother lies buried. These are just the brightest shining pearls in this necklace.

As in the previous volume the sound varies from venue to venue – but nothing untoward. More of a nuisance is the applause after practically every song in the live recordings. This could have been edited out but its presence is not disturbing enough to lessen the importance of this issue. The accompaniments are mostly of a simple, supportive kind and are discreetly played to bring out the singing.

Texts and translations are essential for the appreciation of the songs and Nimbus don’t let the listeners down in this respect either.

Summary: marvellous songs, melodious and expressive, congenially executed by the eloquent Ludovic Konya.

Göran Forsling

see review of Volume 1

Other Bretan reviews

My Lieder-Land Volume 1

My Lieder-Land Volume 2 RECORDING OF THE MONTH (April)

SONGS Ruxandra Donose (sop)

SONGS Alexandru Agache (baritone)

Sacred Songs

Horia - Opera

Golem, Arald - Operas

 



 


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