Just as Hardy's vision
of Wessex shaped his work, Theodor Storm's
identification with his home town, Husum
and its region suffused his work with
its spirit of place and time. North
Friesland is an area of mudflats, islands
where small farms are protected only
by dykes. It is flat, featureless and
exposed to Baltic storms. From this,
Storm, a gifted tenor himself, evokes
a world of complex lyricism that is
Nearly everything is
"right" on this recording.
It is the first to bring together a
range of different settings of the poet,
carefully chosen from over 2500 songs,
by 800 composers. It was a labour of
love by Ulf Bästlein, the baritone,
a native of Husum himself, who grew
up with the poems and understood their
source. The notes, by Lutz Lesle, are
unusually well researched and written.
New translations were made, and funding
raised in the Husum area. Dabringhaus
and Grimm are audiophile recording engineers
who aim at "genuine reproduction,
original dynamics, and natural tone
colours". This recording was made
in a hall chosen for its acoustic qualities.
Needless to say, the performances are
particularly well thought through and
of a high standard. Altogether a wonderful,
rewarding package that deserves to be
heard by anyone interested in how poetry
translates into song.
that he chose settings that did justice
to the "brooding sensitivity, warmth,
inwardness, passion and nostalgia"
of the poems and their "powerful
sense of form and concise unity".
Thus he has included some lesser known
and modern settings which let the poetry
shine through. There are three versions
of the masterpiece Die Stadt. It
is a hymn to town by "the grey
shore, by the grey sea", where
the fog lies heavy, and through the
stillness "roars the sea".
A similar image inspired Heine's Die
Stadt, but here instead of sorrow,
the poet is filled with love for the
grey town and the magic of his youth.
Hermann Reutter (1900-1985) captures
the ebb and flow of the tides in long,
elegiac phrasing : modern as the setting
is, it seems to take off from where
Schubert left his Heine setting. Richard
Trunk (1879-1968) is more melodic. It
bursts forth in a great surge of warmth
as the singer declares his love for
the town. Perhaps it is a favourite
of the performers, as the notes wax
lyrical about its structure. Détlefsen
(b 1951) chooses a more abstract, stylised
approach, with sudden stops, starts
There are five settings
of Schließe mir die Augen beide.
The poet wants loving hands to close
his eyes and give him rest. He uses
the image of waves to describe sleep,
and suddenly rises again, his heart
overflowing with love. Again, the programme
notes give a detailed analysis showing
the method by which each composer creates
an individual statement. The Alban Berg
setting is the most lilting. This is
his first setting from 1900: later he
was to reset it on twelve tone principles.
Felix Mottl (1856-1911) sets it with
Romantic lushness, the piano part making
full use of rich, full tones. Paul Carrière
(1887-1929) gives the poem a deceptively
straightforward setting, but he notes
the sudden change in the last lines
which speak of love – his tempo and
pace change fulsomely. It's a very attractive
song. Joseph Marx (1882-1964) also chooses
the high Romantic approach, but with
a nice crescendo on the final words
"füllest du mein ganzes
Herz," as the piano fades away
gently. The most unusual setting is
Détlefsens. Where the voice part
ebbs and flows, while the piano part
is more animated, bursting forth into
a dramatic solo between verses, then
darkening in tone as the voice re-enters.
The line "füllest du mein
ganzes Herz," is repeated several
times and in different ways for emphasis,
but the dominant part here really is
the piano and its equivocal, intriguing
It's interesting, too,
to compare Berg's famous Nachtigall
with that of Gustav Jenner (1865-1920).
We're so used to the lushly sensuous
Berg, so the upbeat Jenner, who varies
his rhythms merrily, comes as a surprise.
Storm was proud of
his regional identity, and indeed went
into exile in Prussia rather than live
under Danish occupation. His interest
in folk traditions is showcased in Gode
Nacht. The poem is written in Friesian
dialect and calls out for a light, folk
like setting. Richard Mandl (1858-1918)
manages to combine a simple, lyrical
setting with depth and warmth. This
song is most charming, and can run around
in your head for a long time. Brahms'
well known Über die Heide hallet
mein Schritt is another "composed"
folksong, artistically sophisticated
but true to the spirit of folksong.
There two song groups
in this recording, which offer yet another
perspective on how a composer approaches
a poet. Reutter brings dramatic touches
to Hyazinthen, for example.
Détlefsens group is more
abstract, and quite fascinating. Some
of the composers in this recording,
may be obscure, but Détlefsen,
who is still active, is a name to watch.
The art of lieder is alive and healthy.
This very worthwhile recording has,
if nothing else, brought an interesting
composer to wider attention.