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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Peter CORNELIUS (1824-1874)
Seele, vergiss sie nicht

Requiem

‘Seele, vergiss sie nicht’ (Coro SSATB)
Liebe. (op. 18/1-3)
‘Liebe, dir ergeb ich mich’ (Coro SSAA/TTBB)
‘Ich will dich lieben, meine Krone’ (Coro SSATBB)
‘Thron der Liebe, Stern der Güte’ (Coro SSAA/TTBB)
Trauerchöre. (op. 9/1-3)
‘Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig’ (Coro TTBBB)
‘Nicht die Träne kann es sagen’ (Coro TTBB)
‘Mitten wir im Leben sind’ (Coro TTBB)
Drei Chorgesänge (op. 11/1-3)
‘Der Tod, clas ist die kühle Nacht’ (Solo Tenor; Coro SATB/SATB)
‘An den Sturmwind’ (Coro SATB/SATB)
‘Die drei Frühlingstage’ (Coro SSATTB)
‘Absolve Domine’ (Coro TTBB)
Drei Psalmlieder nach Klaviersätzen. (Three Psalm Songs after Johann Sebastian Bachs op. 13/1-3)
‘M Bußlied’ (Coro SATB)
‘An Babels Wasserflüssen’ (Coro SATB)
‘Jerusalem’ (Coro SATB)
‘So weich und warm’. (Coro SATB)
‘Die Könige’. (aus Weihnachtslieder op. 8. Solo Tenor; Coro SATB)
Hans Jörg Mammel, (ten)
KammerChor Saarbrücken/Georg Grün
No recording information given
CARUS 83.163 [68.10]

 

The composer and writer Peter Cornelius was born in Mainz in 1824 and died there fifty years later. After he failed at an acting career he studied music and became a friend of Liszt and Wagner. I mainly know his music from his opera ‘Der Barbier von Baghdad’ (1858). This was first produced in Weimar by Liszt who had become Kapellmeister there in 1848 and where he promoted the works of Wagner and Berlioz. However, Liszt’s support of Cornelius’s opera on top of his promotion of the Liszt-Wagner ‘New Music’, provoked local opposition. As a consequence Liszt resigned his position. Despite these early difficulties this delightful work has maintained its position in the repertoire, particularly in Germany. A recording featuring Fritz Wunderlich has had circulation. However, it is not by that opera, or his two later works in the genre that Cornelius is known. Rather it is his vocal and the choral works, particularly the latter. It is these that feature on the present disc.

Georg Grün, director of the performances here, contends (booklet translation p.8) that the ‘Requiem’ (tr. 1) is the most mature of Cornelius’s choral works. It was written in 1863 in the response to the death of his friend, the poet and writer Friedrich Hebbel, and is a setting of the latter’s poem ‘Seele, vergiss sie nicht’. In this work, six-part writing for a tenor, alto and two sopranos and baritones, predominates. Each vocal register doubles for the cycle ‘Lieb’ of 1872 (trs. 2-4) whilst in ‘Trauerchöre’ (1869, trs. 5-7) the choral backing is two tenors and baritones. It is perhaps in this latter piece, with its lack of female voices, that we can best appreciate the consummate skill of these performers. The blending of harmony and pinpoint articulation are the hallmarks of much practise under a choral director of experience and excellence. The exclusion of the female voices in the previous comment should not be taken as a criticism or failing on the distaff side. Rather the very resonant acoustic does take away the sharpness of the words particularly when the sopranos are above the stave. However, the overall result allows appreciation of the structures and compositional complexities within the various pieces. Perhaps the most interesting work, after the ‘Requiem’, is Cornelius’s Op. 13 (trs. 12-14). These three vocal psalms were written in 1872, Cornelius arranging movements from keyboard suites by Bach as four-part chorales with the soprano line carrying the melody. He uses his own words based on the passages in the psalms and succeeds in preserving the musical substance of Bach’s originals.

The booklet has a brief essay by Georg Grün and all the words with English translation. The disc should appeal to all lovers of this genre and is strongly recommended. It should also be appropriate listening for those who enjoy earlier choral pieces such as those by Hildegard of Bingen and others of that period.

Robert J Farr

 



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