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Wilhelm PETERSEN (1890-1957)
Lieder aus Shakespeares Dramen Op. 46 (c.1949) [21.09]
Sechs Gesänge nach texten von Claudius, Hölderlin, George, Lenau, Trakl, Op. 45 (1910?) [15.41]
Fünf Lieder aus Des Knaben Wunderhorn (1922) [11.35]
Drei Oden von Klopstock Op. 13 (1925) [9.55]
Fünf Lieder aus Des Knaben Wunderhorn - erste fassung (1947) [13.42]
Hans Christoph Begemann (bar)
Matthias Gräff-Schestag (piano)
rec. 15-17 May 2001, Festburgkirche Frankfurt am Main. DDD
EIGENART 10280 [71.15]


Petersen was born in Athens, studied in Germany and was a theatre conductor until he joined the German Imperial Army and saw service on the Western Front. Having survived the hostilities, unlike his composer countrymen Stephan and Kaminski, he moved to Darmstadt in 1922. There he worked as a teacher and later held similar positions in Munich. His opera Der goldne Topf was produced at Darmstadt on 29 March 1941. There are three each violin sonatas and string quartets as well as much else. The five symphonies date from 1921, 1923, 1934, 1941 and 1957. His Grosse Messe was premiered in 1930 conducted by Karl Böhm. In 1972 the Wilhelm Petersen Society was founded to promote his music. The Society provided the funds for this recording.

Petersen, during his twenties was an active member of the circle of poet Stefan George. This he shares with the British impressionist-symbolist composer Cyril Scott. Petersen however showed no such sultry inclinations. His songs are in the Lieder stream. Here is no moody introspective - nothing of Schoeck about this. Petersen probes the emotions but does so in a way that suggests not German forebears but instead Ivor Gurney and even Gerald Finzi. This is especially true of the Shakespeare songs which, by the way, are set and sung in German. Oddly enough the Op. 45 collection, contemporaneous with Op. 46, has some expressionist leanings as in the Klimt-like piano glimmer of the single Hölderlin setting (tr. 12). Petersen can produce scarifying effects as in the ‘cruel skies’ ridden hard by Begeman in Inschrift (tr.17). These moments are comparable to similar episodes in Alan Bush's cycle The Voices of the Prophets. At other times Petersen seems intent on exposing his considerable gift as a tunesmith by largely unadorned settings. This can be heard in the Shakespeare settings and in many of the two Op. 12 Wunderhorn sets. There is no trace of Mahlerian angst in this. The erste fassung set (trs. 24-28) has more expressionist ‘spoor’ than the later (trs. 16-20).

Begemann has a lightish baritone which he can warm at will rather like Brian Rayner Cook. Among German colleagues he is more of the Hermann Prey or Peter Schreier schools than the Fischer-Dieskau fach.

The indispensable notes are by Wolfgang Mechsner. They are in both German and English. The texts are only in German.

A valuable addition to the shelves of all lieder enthusiasts as well as those for whom English song is their centre of gravity and who are prepared to experiment.

Rob Barnett

Violin Sonata No. 2 in F op.22

Götzinger, Gerschwitz, Przybylla, Greff-Schestag - CADENZA 7890396
Grosse Messe

Bach, Belician, Schneider, Mainzer Domorchester - WERGO 6421533


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