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Songs by Great Conductors
Hans von BÜLOW (1830–1894)
Fünf Lieder Op. 5² (1857) [11:31]
1. 1. Freisinn [2:00]
2. 2. Der Fichtenbaum [2:54]
3. 3. Wunsch [2:34]
4. 4. Nachts [1:37]
5. 5. Volkslied [2:08]
Drei Lieder Op. 30¹ (1884) [6:58]
6. Du bist für mich [2:12]
7. Immer fühl ich deine Nähe [2:38]
8. Wenn an des Weltmeers Klippen [2:04]
Bruno WALTER (1876–1962)
Drei Lieder nach Joseph v. Eichendorff² (1910) [7:01]
9. Musikantengruss [2:18]
10. Der junge Ehemann [2:51]
11. Der Soldat [1:45]
Drei Lieder nach Heine Op. 12, No. 4-6² (1901/02)[8:08]
12. Tragödie 1 „Enrflieh mit mir“ [1:22]
13. Tragödie 2 „Es fiel ein Reif“ [3:06]
14. Tragödie 3 „Auf ihrem Grab“ [3:25]
Clemens KRAUSS (1893–1954)
Acht Gesänge nach Gedichten von Rainer Maria Rilke¹ (1920)[24:30]
15. 1. Das war der Tag der weissen Chrysanthemen [2:21]
16. 2. Manchmal geschieht es in tiefer Nacht [2:49]
17. 3. Gehst du aussen die Mauern entlang [2:51]
18. 4. Im flachen Land war ein Erwarten [4:09]
19. 5. Der Abend ist mein Buch [1:51]
20. 6. Und reden sie dir jetzt von Schande [2:22]
21. 7. Wie eine Riesenwunderblume prangt voll Duft die Welt [3:01]
22. 8. Herbst: Die Blätter fallen [4:56]
Petra Lang (soprano)¹, Michael Volle (baritone)², Adrian Baianu (piano)
rec. 27-28 September 2004 (Volle) and 2-4 May 2007 (Lang) at Bayerischer Rundfunk Studio 2. Texts and translations enclosed.


Experience Classicsonline

Today we tend to divide the world of classical music into two halves: the composers on the one side and the interpreters on the other. Two hundred years ago there were no such borderlines: the composer was also the interpreter and sometime during the 19th century, interpreters also wanted to create. Richard Strauss was a noted conductor, today best known as a composer; Gustav Mahler was definitely best known in his lifetime as the great conductor, who only had time to compose during the summer vacation and his music was largely unknown or misunderstood. We do indeed have great conductors today as well who are also important composers. Pierre Boulez is arguably the best known, Lorin Maazel and in the not so distant past Leonard Bernstein.

On the present disc we meet three important conductors from three generations who also had ambitions to compose. I knew some of Bruno Walter’s songs from a Bluebell record with Swedish soprano MariAnn Häggander – none of the present ones incidentally – but both von Bülow and Krauss were new to me in this capacity. They were all three, so to speak, children of their time, influenced by leading masters from their respective previous generations. In von Bülow’s music one can trace Schumann – also Brahms who was an exact contemporary. In addition one can hear Wagner, whom he first met in 1850, the year when he composed his Fünf Lieder Op. 5. By 1884, when von Bülow wrote the Op. 30 songs, Wagner was already dead but in the intervening years he had revolutionized music and von Bülow had adopted the chromatics of Tristan and the Ring operas.

In his youth Bruno Walter had heard von Bülow conducting and was so impressed that he decided to become a conductor himself. Early in his career he was Gustav Mahler’s assistant in Hamburg and there the two developed a deep friendship. It was also Walter who conducted the premieres of the Ninth Symphony and Das Lied von der Erde and it’s no wonder that he was influenced by the older composer. This can clearly be heard in both groups recorded here.

The third conductor-composer represented on this disc, Clemens Krauss, was in his turn closely tied to Richard Strauss. It was he who wrote the libretto for Capriccio, which was also dedicated to him. His Rilke songs were written long before this – they were published in 1920 – but Strauss’s spirit unmistakably hovers over them. There are also references to Alban Berg and his Sieben frühen Lieder from 1907.

And what about the songs? Let me say at once that they are permeated by genuine craftsmanship, sensitivity to the poetry and expressive piano parts. There is no doubt that these are inspired and personal utterances. I was impressed by the youthful freshness of the early Bülow songs, where especially Wunsch (tr. 3) is highly attractive, and of the late songs Op. 30 the stormy Wenn an den Weltmeer’s Klippen (tr. 8) is almost breathlessly intense. Walter’s Der junge Ehemann (tr. 10) with its Wunderhorn echoes might be mistaken for a ‘real’ Mahler song – and one can have worse models. The high spots in his oeuvre are however the three Heine-settings, where Auf ihrem Grab (tr. 14) is possibly the best and most personal. Clemens Krauss’s Gehst du aussen die Mauern entlang (tr. 17) is another song I will return to with pleasure.

It helps a lot that these are sung with such commitment and vocal and verbal acuity by Michael Volle – Bayreuth’s present Beckmesser – and the expressive Petra Lang. It is difficult to imagine better advocates for this music. They are expertly accompanied by Adrian Baianu and the recordings, made almost three years apart, cannot be faulted. There is a good essay and full texts and English translations. Full marks for the presentation.

So why have these songs been collecting dust in archives for 100–150 years? It is certainly not for lack of professionalism from the composers, it’s not because of bad poems, quite the opposite. It isn’t easy to put a finger on it but however skilled these three composers are they are epigones and lack something of the individuality and personality of the real masters. Still I must repeat my verdict: this is good music and good music is always a pleasure to hear. Pâté de foie gras is always nice – as long as I can afford it – but I’m also happy every time I’m being served well cooked steak and kidney pie. I would be happy indeed to hear some of these songs in a recital, but in the meantime this disc is a splendid substitute.

Göran Forsling

see also Review by Jim Pritchard


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