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.