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Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Songs:
Sonnett für Wien, Op. 41 (1953) [3:14]
Vier Abschiedslieder (Sterbelied; Dies eine kann mein Sehnen nimmer fassen; Mond, so gehst du wieder auf; Gefasster Abschied), Op. 14 (1920-21) [14:39]
Drei Lieder (In meine innige Nacht; Tu ab den Schmerz; Versuchung), Op. 18 (1924) [8:22]
Drei Lieder (Was du mir bist?; Mit dir zu schweigen; Welt ist stille eingeschlafen), Op. 22 (1928-29) [8:26]
Four Shakespeare Songs (Desdemona’s song; Under the Greenwood tree; Blow, blow, thou winter wind; When birds do sing), Op. 31 (1937-41) [10:08]
Unvergänglichkeit (Unvergänglichkeit; Das eilende Bächlein; Das schlafende Kind; Stärker als der Tod; Unvergänglichkeit), Op. 27 (1933) [10:58]
Songs of the Clown (Come away death; O Mistress Mine; Adieu, Good Man Devil; Hey Robin; For the rain, it raineth every day), Op. 29 (1937) [8:28]
Fünf Lieder (Glückwunsch; Der Kranke; Alt-Spanisch; Old English Song; My Mistress’ Eyes), Op. 38 (1948) [10:07]
Sarah Connolly (mezzo); William Dazeley (baritone); Iain Burnside (piano)
rec. The Warehouse, Theed Street, London, 18-19 February and 18-19 March 2008. DDD
SIGNUM SIGCD 160 [74:26]
 
Experience Classicsonline

 

How times have changed over the last fifteen years or so – from hardly any recordings of Korngold’s music we now have almost an abundance of choice including several albums of his often sublime songs. This is a fine new addition to the growing list.

It begins quite appropriately with the composer’s last song, Sonnett für Wien (Sonnet for Vienna), written in 1953 as a eulogy for the vanished splendour and romance of a long-lost Vienna. Its tune is a theme from the forgettable 1947 film Escape Me Never but with a gorgeous score from Korngold. William Dazeley sings it with melancholic, nostalgic intensity.

The lovely Abschiedslieder (Songs of Farewell) are most beautifully sung by Sarah Connolly, her long legato lines nicely controlled, her musicality refined. In Sterbelied, “When I am dead, my dearest, Sing no sad songs for me” she is affectingly consolatory; and in Mond, so gehst du wieder auf (So, Moon, You Rise Again) she grieves most poignantly. William Dazeley sings the other two songs in this lovely cycle engagingly too – just listen to the way he concludes the tender Gefasster Abschied (Controlled Farewell), investing a wealth of meaning – tenderness, regret … - at the concluding reprise of the words “Do not weep now that I am going”. Here, as in every song, Iain Burnside provides fluent and sympathetic accompaniments full of poetic nuance. Vier Abschiedslieder was written when Korngold was 23 and the cycle was subsequently orchestrated. The Chandos 1993 premiere recording (CHAN 9171) with Linda Finnie and the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Sir Edward Downes is a confident recommendation.

Dazeley is despairing in the tonally ambiguous In meine innige Nacht (In my deepest night), the first of the three complex Kaltneker songs. He is more determined to throw off despair, angrily extolling his love to “Open your heart, give peace a place!” in Tu ab den Schmerz (Away with Pain). Versuchung (Temptation) is no less restless and incensed.

The Drei Leider, Op. 20 are far more relaxed and sunny. Sarah Connolly’s ecstasy is warmly and joyfully conveyed in her Was du mir bist (What you are to me). What a lovely song this is! So, too, is Welt ist stille eingeschlafen (When the world has gone to sleep), Burnside so magically evoking a romantic sylvan landscape while Connolly is transported at “Our souls in deep communion kiss, In my dream, in my dream.”

The album includes two Shakespeare-inspired cycles. “Desdemona’s song” opens the Four Shakespearean Songs with Connolly in mute acceptance of her sad fate, while a debonair Dazeley cheekily tempts us to relax Under the Greenwood Tree. Five other song settings of Twelfth Night texts comprise the Songs of the Clown beginning with a forlorn Dazeley inviting “Come Away Death” and, in O Mistress Mine, he sighs ruefully over the transience of love after the concluding lines: “Then come kiss me sweet, sweet and twenty; youth’s a stuff will not endure”.

The four Unvergänglichkeit songs comprise another lovely cycle commencing with the hauntingly beautiful title song (For Ever) sung so tenderly by Sarah Connolly. It is reprised at the close of the cycle ending with those romantic words, “And what’s for ever – You”. She invests such maternal caring in Das schlafende Kind (The Sleeping Child). She contrasts this with angry and resentment, “Rid me of this crown of thorns … Love wields more power than being dead” in the tumultuous Stärker als der Tod (Stronger than Death).

The recital is rounded off with Korngold’s Fünf Lieder. Film associations are evident again. The exquisite opening Glückwunsch (Good Luck Wish) uses a melody from the biopic of the Brontës, Devotion; the Old Spanish Song appears in The Sea Hawk and Old English Song graced, as I recollect, Elizabeth and Essex.

The accompanying booklet has an erudite article by Korngold biographer, Jessica Duchen; and texts of all thirty songs.

There are a number of fine competitive recordings of Korngold’s songs including Dietrich Hensel’s fine recording on Harmonia Mundi (HMC 901780) accompanied by pianist Helmust Deutsch. Soprano Anne Sophie Otter delivers the songs with impeccable diction, style and technique, on 2 DG CDs 459 631-2 with Bengt Forsberg providing unobtrusive yet exceedingly telling and sensitive accompaniments. The albums also include some of Korngold’s chamber music. I would also direct your attention to the ASV album (CD DCA 1131) featuring Gigi Mitchell-Velasco (mezzo) and Stephen Gould (tenor) with Jochem Hochstenbach (piano) and the Bruckner Orchester Linz conducted by Caspar Richter

Ian Lace
 


 


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