‘Folk Songs’ is an extensive concept. In art music
it invariably means that the original has been added to, elaborated
by the composer to put his personal stamp on the end product.
This programme shows very different approaches. Brahms meticulously
tried to find the right notes that preserved the melodies as
closely as possible to the tradition and composed accompaniments
that are personal but adjusted to the contents of the songs and
though artfully written are rather discreet. Britten harmonises
his accompaniments according to his own sound-world, sometimes
in threateningly dark colours (The last rose of summer
sometimes in jarring dissonances (Oliver Cromwell
also writes accompaniments that are independent of the song-line,
contrapuntal or even ‘disturbing’. Wolf-Ferrari employs
old Italian folk poems but composes his melodies using phrases
from old songs so that the end product is largely his own.
Irrespective of method all these songs are highly attractive
in their own right and as a programme it is cleverly contrasted
but united through relative closeness in time. Apart from Britten’s
songs the rest span a mere fourteen years, from Mahler (1892)
to Ravel (1906).
The two young German artists are a sympathetic couple with good
rapport and they have clearly considered their interpretations
carefully. They are flexible in their approach and are liberal
with rubato. Sometimes they verge on the self-indulgent. They
linger a little too much in a couple of the Mahler songs and Rheinlegendchen
dangerously close to a stand-still. But this is pretty much an
exception and tastes differ.
Andrea Stadel has a light, flexible voice. She is a soprano though
the booklet only says ‘Gesang’ (vocals). There is
a fast flicker in the voice that is rather attractive. I hope
though that she will not let it develop into a wobble. Her phrasing
is musical and unaffected and she can sing beautifully softly
and inwardly as for instance in Brahms’s In stiller
Occasionally I get a feeling that the voice hasn’t
settled throughout the register. Some high notes stick out, not
wholly integrated, and in a few places she is a little unsteady.
Interpretatively there is often a sameness about her expression
- a field where experience will give deeper insights.
But so much else is highly promising. The Brahms songs are fresh
and natural, Da unten im Tale
simple and innocent, just
as she looks on the cover. Es war ein Markgraf
, one of
the lesser known Brahms songs, requires a heftier voice and that
also goes for the Britten songs. In the Ravel cycle she is best
in the last two songs but the Mahler group - apart from my question-mark
concerning the rubatos - is a pleasure from beginning to end.
No one has ever surpassed Elisabeth Schumann in Wer hat dies
but Andrea Stadel is very good there; even
better though are the first three in that group.
The real highlights are however the Wolf-Ferrari and Zemlinsky
songs. Wolf-Ferrari is known for a number of operas that are
occasionally performed even today but here he charms in a way
the operas rarely do. The four Rispetti
Op. 11 are melodious
little gems that require to be heard. There are another four
forming his Op. 12, so if Antes are contemplating a sequel to
this disc they should be high on the priority list.
Zemlinsky’s only standard work is the Lyric Symphony
soprano, baritone, chorus and orchestra. It has been recorded
a number of times. It was composed in 1923 whereas his charming Walzergesänge
written in 1898. They are beguiling miniatures, lovely melodies
from bygone days but with accompaniments that brim over with
chromatics. These songs balance on the threshold of the turn-of-the-last-century
with the door half open, letting us anticipate a musical revolution
to come. They were recorded some twenty years ago by Barbara
Bonney and Anne Sofie von Otter on a double CD with Zemlinsky
songs (Deutsche Grammophon). It seems that this is still available
as download. However, Andrea Stadel sings both groups with obvious
relish and the songs, as I said, are wholly delightful. Unfortunately
Antes don’t provide texts and translations, which is always
a drawback but especially with songs that are not standard fare.
The recording cannot be faulted and Rita Klose plays excellently.
In Ravel’s Tout gai!
the piano swings excitingly
and she finds many fine nuances in the Mahler songs.
I am sure Andrea Stadel will mature and refine her interpretations
further in years to come. I will look forward to hearing her
again. She is certainly promising.
Johannes BRAHMS (1833 - 1897)
aus den 49 Deutschen Volksliedern
1. Es wohnet ein Fiedler
2. Da unten im Tale
3. Es war ein Markgraf überm Rhein
4. Die Sonne scheint nicht mehr
5. Dort in den Weiden steht ein Haus
6. In stiller Nacht
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913 - 1976)
Folk Song Arrangements
7. Come you not from Newcastle [1:27]
8. Sweet Polly Oliver [1:56]
9. The last rose of summer [3:45]
10. O can ye sew cushions? [2:11]
11. Oliver Cromwell [0:54]
Maurice RAVEL (1875 - 1937)
Cinq mélodies populaires grècques
12. Le réveil de la mariée
13. Là-bas, vers l’église
14. Quel galant m’est comparable?
15. Chanson des cueilleuses de lentisques
16. Tout gai!
Gustav MAHLER (1860 - 1911)
aus ‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’
17. Hans und Grete
18. Ablösung im Sommer
19. Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht?
20. Starke Einbildungskraft
22. Verlorene Müh’
Ermanno WOLF-FERRARI (1878 - 1948)
Op. 11 (1902) nach Volksliedern aus der Toscana
23. Un verde praticello senxa piante
24. Io del saluti ve ne mando mille
25. E tanto, c’è pericol ch’io ti lasci
26. O sic he non sapevo sospirare
Alexander von ZEMLINSKY (1871 - 1942)
Op. 6 nach toskanischen Liedern von F.
27. Liebe Schwalbe
28. Klagen ist der Mond gekommen
29. Fensterlein, nachts bist du zu
30. Ich geh’ des Nachts
31. Blaues Sternlein
32. Briefchen schrieb ich