> MEYER Lieder [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Ernst Hermann MEYER (1905-1988)

Peter Schreier (ten)
Walter Olbertz (piano)
rec 1988 DDD

  1. Preisend den Frieden
  2. In ihrer Schönheit
  3. Mir träumte wieder der alte Traum
  4. Im Ernst
  5. König Wiswamitra
  6. Ich wollte bei dir wellen
  7. Ich hätt der nimmermehr gedächt
  8. An die Musik
  9. Schuld
  10. Wenn der Sturm
  11. Reife Tage
  12. Wanderers Nachtlied
  13. Mittel-Alter
  14. Spielt der Herbst sein Trists Lied
  15. Der Gast
  16. Weihnacht
  17. Weihnachtsabend
  18. Schwere Stunden
  19. Zerquälte Zeit
  20. Huldigung
  21. Seit wir beieinander sind
  22. Vollmond
  23. Das Geheimnis
  24. Ehre
  25. Was weiß denn ich, wie lang ...

Meyer was a composer much associated with the communist establishment in the German Democratic Republic. He spent fifteen years (1933-1948) in English exile. There he was befriended by Alan Bush conducting workers' choirs, working as a musicologist and studying English chamber music (on which he wrote a book in 1946). His post-war return to the GDR saw his appointment as professor of musicology at Humboldt University as well as an upward succession of official musical and cultural positions. He remained a lifelong convinced communist much as his friend Alan Bush in England. Whereas Bush suffered exclusion for his openly held convictions Meyer blossomed and attracted commission after commission in the sympathetic environment of the GDR.

Amongst his many works there are three hundred songs. These continue the orthodox tradition of the lied but graft onto it social responsibility and mildly expressionistic dissonance. The softened discords you will detect from hearing these songs. The social dimension (and here I rely on the notes) is only apparent in the words of two of the twenty-five songs and then it is neither belligerent nor hectoring. Listening to these songs I would place Meyer as a traditionalist whose use of dissonance is subordinated to his fidelity to the very same German art-song tradition traced from Schubert to Wolf to Reger to Pfitzner. His is a strongly melodic voice touched with the darkness and with the pessimism you find in Schoeck and which predominated in the recently reviewed Guild collection of songs by Swiss composers. Whether calculated or not these songs strike me as private inward statements with some nostalgia for the golden age of German fields, forests and hills. That nostalgia can also be traced, but even more strongly, in Hanns Eisler's Hollywood songs (a Decca collection sung by Mathias Goerne).

The featured songs are settings of Johannes R. Becher, Eva Strittmatter, Louis Fürnberg, Annemarie Bostroem, Willi Layh, Theodor Fontane and Günther Deicke. Mixed among these are Goethe and Heine settings and one song each from Byron and Herrick.

So many of these songs reflect remorse, sadness, rain-clouded landscapes and plaintive voices. Preisend den Frieden deploys a shadowed lyricism with touches of Britten yet more emotional than the British composer. A quiet watery ostinato and a precise lyricism returns also for track 25 in a haze of gentle dissonance. 8 is a serenade in a rain-clouded landscape recalling the words 'Gone, gone is summer the lovely' from Arthur Bliss's Seven American Poems. This is a lovely song that deserves to appear in anthologies and recitals; similarly Was weiss (tr 25). Other songs bear the impress of protest (9), triumph (10), November nights in graveyards (17) sad serenade (14). 15 21 and 22 are more expressionist settings with part sung part spoken commentary. 23 is easier but still reflective of a darkening landscape with louring clouds. Winter Serenade (16) is influenced by English troubadour school shaped by Warlock, Gurney and Finzi. There are traces of this in Huldigung as well as in 24.

Meyer is fortunate in both Schreier whose voice I idolise as much as that of Ian Partridge, Thomas Hampson and Gerald English and in Olbertz.

Well designed booklet. The notes by Antje Hinz are in German. These are also in English in the usual polished translation from the Berridges. No texts.

Rob Barnett

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