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Romantic Swiss Song
Robert FREUND (1852-1936)

Five Songs Op. 4: Der schwere abend (Lenau) *; Nun die schatten dunkeln (Geibel) ; Viel Vögel (Hammerling) ; Frage nicht (Lenau) *; Blick in dem Strom (Lenau) *
Othmar SCHOECK (1886-1957)

Das Fraulein am meer (Heine)
Perlen (anon)
Gefunden (Goethe)
Vergangenheit (Lenau) *
Stummer Abschied (anon) *
Lebewohl! (Lenau) *
Volkslied (anon)
Kinderliedchen (anon)
Schlaf' ein, lieb Kind (anon) *
Paul KLETZKI (1900-1973)

Four Songs Op. 2: Nebel (Lenau) *; Trost (Storm) ; Schliesse mir die Augen beide (Storm) ; Bitte (Lenau) *
Night Songs Op. 3: Nachts (Eichendorff) ; Nacht für Nacht (Dehmel) ; Winternacht (Lenau) *
Robert BOSSHART (1899-1937)

Bitte (Bosshart) *
Ewige Sehnsucht (aus Einsame Insel) (Bosshart) *
Volkmar ANDREAE (1879-1962)

Mond am Tage op. 12 no. 1 (Conrad Ferdinand Meyer)
Der Schmied op. 12. No.3 (Walter Schädeln)
Requiem Op. 10 No. 1 (Meyer) *
Alte Schweizer Op. 12 No. 2 (Meyer) *
Louise Innes (mz-sop)
Peter Van Hulle (ten)
William Coleman (bar) *
Edward Rushton (piano)
rec St Paul's School. London, 13-15 Apr 2001, DDD
GUILD GMCD 7237 [53.42]

Fitting that a Swiss company of Guild's standing should come up with this project. They are by no means strangers to Swiss music having the Schoeck violin sonatas and Mueller-Zürich CDs in their lists. This disc was, perhaps surprisingly, recorded in the UK using singers and an extremely fine pianist all from the British Isles.

Two of the composers (Kletzki and Andreae) are or were better known as conductors. Freund and Bosshart were names completely new to me. Schoeck is well recognised and his songs and song cycles, operas and orchestral music have been pretty extensively recorded. Much have it has been reviewed on this site

All of the songs are from the German Helvetic literary tradition. The poems set are from the warm heimat of German romance.

Freund was born in Budapest but moved to Zurich to teach at the then newly established conservatory. There he numbered Othmar Schoeck among his pupils. Freund's five Op. 4 songs lean towards Brahms and Loewe. We range over the angry and inkily bass heavy Der schwere Abend to the Whitman-like defiance of Nun die Schatten dunkeln, to the brevity of Viel Vögel sind geflofen to the promise of misery comfortingly offered by Frage Nicht to the suicidal contemplation of Blick In dem strom. The second and third songs are by the tenor; the others by the baritone.

Schoeck certainly wrote cycles but the nine songs on this disc are individual settings. The first three Schoeck songs are taken by Peter van Hulle. They are pretty brevities of between 0.51 and 1.01. Vergangenheit is serenade-like contrasting with the mournful beauty of Stummer Abschied and Lebewohl. Van Hulle's accent is not as credible as that of his two colleagues although I confess I only noticed this in Folk Song which, as a setting, is as rounded and unassuming as Kinderliebchen. The heavy-eyed lullaby of Schlaf' ein lib Kind is warmly cradled by Ms Innes. Her singing of Schlaf' ein is one of the highlights of the disc.

Kletzki driven by pogroms and bombing from place to place thought that he had lost his two trunks full of compositions when he had to depart Milan as the bombing began. Miraculously recovered and opened after his death the trunks were found to contain these early songs as well as three symphonies, various concerti, four string quartets and piano music. Consolation in the hands of the feelingly rounded voice of Louise Innes develops an operetta-like lightness. However such lightness evaporates in the scena, Nacht für nacht - a Dehmel setting where the singer rises triumphantly to an expressionist climax. Shades of Rachmaninov and Sibelius merge and flow through this music and I can happily accept the mouth-watering prospect augured by Chris Walton that Kletzki's other music will be seen as one of the major discoveries of the 1990s. Bitte, sung by William Coleman, bridges across to Freund's Der schwere Abend.

Bosshart in his mid-1920s was a conductor and stage director at the Dresden Opera. He married a wealthy German-American soprano and retired to Ticino to write vast music dramas (another Bungert here?) and developed a fanaticism for German fascism. His two Straussian songs have a free-floating ecstatic positivism that contrasts with the earnestness of glorying in depression that haunts most of his companions on this collection.

Andreae is a name most readily associated with recordings on Vox LPs. A close friend of Schoeck he was the conductor of the Zurich Tonhalle for forty years. Walton mentions his chamber music, works for choir and the premiere of one of his two operas, The Adventures of Casanova, at the Dresden State Opera in 1924. Presumably this would have been during Bosshart's tenure there. Van Hulle, who is the most fallibly voiced of the trio of singers, is tremulous in Mond am Tage if better in Der Schmied. The song Requiem is taken in awed lunar stillness by Coleman who is an utterly convincing advocate - cleanly voiced and secure. It is a superb song with a deep-sea undertow and grandly introspective concentration. Alte Schweizer has the grim jawset of Die Beiden Grenadier of Schumann and of Schubert's Erlkönig.

The notes in English, French and German are by the world's Schoeck authority, Chris Walton, now at Pretoria University. Full texts are given with translations into English.

Shortish playing time. Warm and close recording for the voices and the piano comfortably merged into the sound-picture.

Get this if you are hooked on the dark waters of the German romantics. If you have already taken to Marx, Schoeck and Pfitzner this is certainly for you.

Rob Barnett


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