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
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
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