has already given us a powerful collection of Verbotene Klange
which was a disparate but fully engaging three CD disc set.
Their companion Verbotene Lieder disc takes Grosz, Ullmann,
Korngold and Weill and unveils their songs, a no less laudable
enterprise but one that is ultimately less revealing.
wouldn’t go so far as to say that we don’t hear the composers
at their best – one should omit the well known Weill songs
from these comments - but that they are certainly less
intense and evocative than the music by which, say, Ullmann
known. His two cycles are rather uneven affairs. The 1937 Sechs
Lieder nach Gedlichten von Albert Steffen
for the gentle lyricism of the second, Drei Blumen
and for the playful insistence of the last, Aus dem
in den Garten.
In the case of the three Hölderlin-Lieder
first is by some way the most intense – and longest – and
bears a winding chordal power.
was Viennese and studied with Schreker. He wrote in a multiplicity
of styles – operas and symphonies, jazz ballet and cabaret
songs. None of this availed him when the climate changed.
He left Vienna for London early, in 1934, thence to Hollywood.
It was Grosz who wrote The Isle of Capri,
hit so beloved of dance bands, but he died of a heart attack
in 1939. His Children’s Songs were published in 1922 and
they are charmingly effective with a suitably light-hearted
tone – all lullaby and frisky innocence, and the exuberance
of the last rings in the ears, none revealing a Schreker
link. The slightly later Lieder an die Geliebte
love-songs, five miniatures – concise, late-Romantic, though
occasionally songs that push the voice ungratefully high.
The central song is suffused in longing but the drifting
harmonies of the fourth are the most interesting with their
very audible impressionist flecks – Debussy as modulated
is represented by his lush – can one speak of him without
using that word? – 1928-29 settings. The influence in the
central song of three is Mahler but their placement in the
centre of this disc comes, I have to admit, as a welcome,
openhearted respite. Ideally they call for a more opulent
and vocally expressive voice than Christiane Oelze’s - she’s
far more suited to the crepuscular and mordant than to the
openly romantic – but she conveys something of their spirited
power. Naturally Weill is here but the three Weill/Brecht
songs – so well known - might perhaps have been substituted
by others from less well-known composers.
rather variable programme then, variably sung. The Grosz
and Korngold settings most appealed to me; Ullmann remains
frequently aloof. Full tri-lingual translations and concise