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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809–1847)
CD 1
1. Neue Liebe, Op.19a No. 4 [1:49]
2. Gruss, Op. 19a No. 5 [1:32]
3. Auf Flügeln des Gesanges, Op. 34 No. 2 [3:24]
4. Reiselied, Op. 34 No. 6 [2:32]
5. Morgengruss, Op. 47 No. 2 [2:01]
6. Allnächtlich im Traume seh’ ich dich, Op. 86 No. 4 [1:23]
7. Frühlingslied, Op. 47 No. 3 [2:56]
8. An die Entfernte, Op. 71 No. 3 [1:24]
9. Schilflied, Op. 72 No. 4 [2:57]
10. Auf der Wanderschaft, Op. 71 No. 5 [2:11]
11. Minnelied, Op. 47 No. 1 [2:03]
12. Frühlingslied, Op. 19a No. 1 [1:27]
13. Der erste Veilchen, Op. 19a No. 2 [2:27]
14. Reiselied, Op. 19a No. 6 [2:51]
15. Winterlied, Op. 19a No. 3 [2:44]
16. Minnelied, Op. 34 No. 1 [1:44]
17. O Jugend, o schöne Rosenzeit, Op. 57 No. 4 [2:08]
18. Da lieg’ ich unter den Bäumen, Op. 84 No. 1 [4:00]
19. Erntelied, Op. 8 No. 4 [4:43]
20. Volkslied, Op. 47 No. 4 [2:55]
21. Wanderlied, Op. 57 No. 6 [1:51]
22. Nachtlied, Op. 71 No. 6 [2:55]
23. Das Waldschloss [2:03]
24. Pagenlied [1:55]
25. Frühlingslied, Op. 34 No. 3 [2:00]
26. Bei der Wiege, Op. 47 No. 6 [1:46]
27. Es lauschte das Laub, Op. 86 No. 1 [3:12]
28. Tröstung, Op. 71 No. 1 [1:42]
29. Jagdlied, Op. 84 No. 3 [1:58]
30. Wenn sich zwei Herzen scheiden, Op. 99 No. 5 [1:50]
31. Der Mond, Op. 86 No. 5 [1:57]
CD 2
1. Venezianisches Gondellied, Op. 57 No. 5 [2:26]
2. Der Blumenkranz [2:16]
3. Erster Verlust, Op. 99 No. 1 [3:21]
4. Andres Maienlied (Hexenlied), Op. 8 No. 8 [2:18]
5. Warnung von dem Rhein [2:47]
6. Altdeutsches Lied, Op. 57 No. 1 [1:26]
7. Hirtenlied, Op. 57 No. 2 [3:07]
8. Schlafloser Augen Leuchte [2:36]
9. Scheidend, Op. 9 No. 6 [2:07]
Carl LOEWE (1796–1869)
10. Edward, Op. 1 No. 1 [5:57]
11. Der Mohrenfürst auf der Messe, Op. 97 No. 3 [4:30]
12. Erlkönig, Op. 1 No. 3 [3:16]
13. Archibald Douglas, Op. 128 [10:18]
14. Der Schatzgräber, Op. 59 No. 3 [5:54]
15. Tom der Reimer, Op. 135 [5:52]
16. Kleiner Haushalt, Op. 71 [3:54]
17. Süsses Begräbnis, Op. 62 No. 4 [3:06]
18. Herr Oluf, Op. 2 No. 2 [5:32]
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone); Wolfgang Sawallisch (piano) (Mendelssohn); Gerald Moore (piano)(Loewe)
rec. Gemeindehaus, Berlin-Zehlendorf, 8, 10, 13, 15 September 1970 (Mendelssohn); 4-5, 7-9 September 1967 (Loewe)
texts and translations included
EMI CLASSICS GREAT RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY 0946 3 91990 2 0 [72:31 + 70:54]

 


Neither Mendelssohn nor Loewe find themselves in the First Division in the Lieder Composers’ League but they are certainly there at the top of the second division. There they rub shoulders with Liszt, Robert Franz and Joseph Marx and possibly Othmar Schoeck, although the latter two are firmly 20th century composers.

Mendelssohn’s songs are attractive and well wrought but rather limited in scope compared to Schubert’s and Schumann’s and when did you last hear a Mendelssohn recital or even a group of his songs – apart of course from Auf Flügeln des Gesanges? Recordings are few and far between. Rummaging through my shelves I found a disc from 1992 with Barbara Bonney and Geoffrey Parsons, but that was it. Loewe is another matter. Not that he is a frequent presence on recital programmes - the last time I can remember was Hermann Prey more than ten years ago. That said, he seems to sell well on record. Prey, Fischer-Dieskau, Kurt Moll and Brigitte Fassbaender all had Loewe recitals represented in an old Gramophone Catalogue from 1990. Further back Josef Greindl set down an all-Loewe album for DG. CPO are busy recording his complete songs, having currently reached volume 21.

The 41 songs by Mendelssohn on this set were originally issued on two LPs; probably the most comprehensive survey so far. Barbara Bonney sings a number of these songs but also some that F-D didn’t record. To complicate things further some songs by Fanny Mendelssohn were published under her brother’s name but I think this has now been sorted out.

Backed by the ever-responsive Wolfgang Sawallisch, Fischer-Dieskau’s traversal is highly attractive. As was his wont, he lavishes all his vocal and textual skill on the material. It  might be argued that he sometimes tries to wring more from these songs than is good for them – a criticism that was now and then directed towards him. Even so, he totally avoids blandness. And the lighter songs – and there are many of them – are treated with great care and sensitivity.

For those who have opportunities to listen before buying I can point to some attractive test tracks. The light and bouncy Neue Liebe (CD1 tr. 1) with its nervous piano part is a perfect illustration of the heart-beating fast when love is new. The ubiquitous Auf Flügeln des Gesanges (CD1 tr. 3) has been inflated, sentimentalized and distorted so many times through the years that it is a relief to hear it sung naturally and with beauty. Allnächtlich im Traume (CD1 tr. 6) is agitated and dramatic, quite different from Schumann’s better known setting in Dichterliebe. The Volkslied (CD1 tr. 20) is simple and winsome. F-D keeps it that way but in the last stanza with darker undertone there is more emphasis in the singing. The jolly Jagdlied (CD1 tr. 29) to a text from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, is sparkling and Venezianisches Gondellied (CD2 tr. 1), a song that is actually heard now and then, rocks gently. The most atypical song here is Andres Maienlied a.k.a. Hexenlied. I wonder how many listeners in a blindfold test would connect Mendelssohn with this dark, dramatic and threatening music. Schubert in Atlas mood or maybe Loewe … but well behaved Mendelssohn? This song gives F-D golden opportunities to explore the dark side of existence.

I wonder how often Fischer-Dieskau returned to this repertoire. That he was an avid Loewe champion is beyond doubt. On his very first 78 rpm record, for Electrola in 1949, he sang Tom der Reimer. Almost twenty years later he recorded the present collection with Gerald Moore. Just a few years later he set down two LPs with Jörg Demus for DG. In the early 1980s he re-recorded all nine ballads from the present issue plus another two, again with Demus. Finally in the late 1980s he made a disc for Teldec with Hartmut Höll. There he included songs which appeared to be new to his repertoire. I have all these recordings and wouldn’t be willing to part with any of them, so full of insight and so well executed are they. In case of a deportation to that proverbial “Desert Island” – fully equipped with CD-players, amplifiers and of course electricity – I would probably opt for this disc with Moore, where vocally he is at the height of his powers.

It is easy to be a little condescending towards Loewe. His melodic invention can be banal, his accompaniments verging on what could be heard in perfumed Victorian parlours. More often than not though his ballads are engaging, dramatic and flexibly composed to be in fine accord with the texts. Erlkönig, his best-known ballad, is in no way inferior to Schubert’s, Der Schatzgräber. Kleiner Haushalt is virtuously elegant and Süsses Begräbnis is a song of great beauty. Herr Oluf is a variant on the Erlkönig theme and the end is just as predictable. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is just cut out for songs like these where he can make use of his vocal resources to maximum effect. Gerald Moore as usual never puts a foot – or rather a finger – wrong.

There are full texts and translations and an illuminating essay by Richard Wigmore. There are also some photos of Fischer-Dieskau from the good old days. Practically anything he recorded in those days is worth having and those who have yet to discover the Lieder-composers Mendelssohn and Loewe should jump at this opportunity.

Göran Forsling 

 

 


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