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Verbotene Lieder
Wilhelm GROSZ (1894-1939)
Lieder an die Geliebte Op.18 [7.40]
Kinderlieder nach Texten von Christian Morgenstern Op.13 (1922) [10.18]
Viktor ULLMANN (1898-1944)
Sechs Lieder nach Gedlichten von Albert Steffen Op.17 (1937) [12.07]
Hölderlin-Lieder für eine Singstimme und Klavier [8.15]
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Drei Lieder für Gesang und Klavier Op.22 (1928-29) [7.55]
Aus dem Liederzyklus Unvergänglichkeit  - Deine edlen Op.27 [2.11]
Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
Drei Songs nach Texten von Bertolt Brecht
Der Matrosen-Song [6.44]
Die Seeräuber-Jenny [Die Dreigroschenoper - The Threepenny Opera] [4.14]
Der Bilbao-Song [8.45]
Christiane Oelze (soprano)
Eric Schneider (piano)
rec. April 2005, Stolberger Strasse, Cologne
CAPRICCIO SACD 71 062 [69.11]

Capriccio has already given us a powerful collection of Verbotene Klange - see review - 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.
 
I 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 is best known. His two cycles are rather uneven affairs. The 1937 Sechs Lieder nach Gedlichten von Albert Steffen is notable for the gentle lyricism of the second, Drei Blumen, and for the playful insistence of the last, Aus dem Häuschen in den Garten. In the case of the three Hölderlin-Lieder the first is by some way the most intense – and longest – and bears a winding chordal power.
 
Grosz 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, a big 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 are 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 through Schreker.
 
Korngold 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.
 
A 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 notes.

Jonathan Woolf

 

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