Anton URSPRUCH (1850-1907)
Die heilige Cäcilia (op posth) Gegrüßet, Heldenpaar (4. Act) (c. 1906) [3:57]
Nehmt Leib und Leben mir! (5. Act) [8:37]
Four Songs from the poems of Mirza-Schaffy Op.4
Nr. 1: Ich fühle deinen Odem [1:32]
Nr. 2: Seh' ich deine zarten kleinen Füßchen [2:44]
Nr. 3: Gott hieß die Sonne scheinen [1:56]
Nr. 4: Neig', schöne Knospe, dich zu mir [1:37]
Six Songs Op.3
Nr. 1: Das Meer hat seine Perlen [1:48]
Nr. 2: Deine weißen Lilienfinger [1:35]
Nr. 3: Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne [0:59]
Nr. 4: Im tiefsten Innern [1:32]
Nr. 5: Es streckt der Wald die Zweige [1:44]
Nr. 6: Weil' auf mir, du dunkles Auge [1:36]
12. Wenn ich in deine Auge seh' op. 6 Nr. 2 [1:36]
13. Hör' ich das Liedchen klingen op. 6 Nr. 3 [1:55]
14. Ja, du bist elend op. 6 Nr. 3 [2:52]
Ludwig THUILLE (1861-1907)
Three Songs Op.12 (1892)
Nr. 1: Waldeinsamkeit [5:48]
Nr. 2: Die Nacht [3:19]
Nr. 3: Die stille Stadt [3:23]
19. Devotionale op. 27 Nr. 1 (1901) [3:06]
Erich J.WOLFF (1874-1913)
Erhebung op. 8 Nr. 2 [2:01]
Bienenlied op. 12: Nr. 6 [2:32]
Mignon op. 15 Nr. 1 [3:59]
Tag meines Lebens op. 13 Nr. 2 [3:07]
Andacht op. 11 Nr. 1 [3:29]
Mandolinen op. 22 Nr. 5 [1:42]
Gebet op. 14 Nr. 1 [2:26]
Die Horen op. 12 Nr. 2 [1:22]
Gottes Segen op. 14 Nr. 4 [1:56]
Rebecca Broberg (soprano)
Ulrich Urban (piano)
rec. June and September 2010, Schüttbau, Rügheim
Texts in German but no translations
THOROFON CTH2585 [74:25]

Three Austro-German contemporaries share disc space in a recital subtitled by Thorofon, ‘Magic Dark and Bright Azure’. This resplendent poetic and painterly phrase summons up fin de siècle succulence that is not wholly met by the music, which it is best to set in its own contexts.
Anton Unsprach was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1850, and is the most senior of the three composers. He studied successively under Lachner, Raff and Liszt, of whom he was a favourite student. Unsprach considered himself to be a ‘progressive modernist’ and something of a Wagnerian. Certainly the evidence of a certain thrall is evident in the two examples, in voice and piano reduction, taken from his incomplete operaDie heilige Cäcilia. This was his third opera and an opus posthumous, sadly, given his early death. The examples are from the fourth and fifth acts and test Rebecca Broberg’s soprano punishingly. She has to attack from beneath the note and squalls to produce the exultant effect demanded of her. This is a difficult sing, and needs a much more powerful voice than hers fully to do it justice. She is much more at home in the rest of the programme, where the lines fit her voice much more reasonably. The Op.4 settings are quite simple, with the voice sitting on top of a very closely shadowing piano line. Unsprach seems reluctant to let pass any opportunity for the piano to echo the vocal line, a limiting lack of independence and imagination. The Op.3 set is better. There’s a rare geniality in Die Rose, though Broberg falters technically here, and Weil' auf mir, du dunkles Auge has a most pleasing melody line. The idiom here is less progressive than conservative, but it would be important to know when the songs were written to gauge just how conservative, should conservatism be a concern.
Ludwig Thuille was born in Bozen in 1861 and was a childhood friend of Richard Strauss. His 1892 Three Songs Op.12 demonstrate far greater independence than those of Urspruch. The first is a relatively long, and convincing nature setting, limpid in places, but all three are extremely well characterised and there are some well judged repeated stabbing notes in Die stille Stadt that fully convey the necessary atmosphere. The oppressive atmosphere attests to Thuille’s fine responses to texts.
The last composer is Erich J. Wolff, born in 1874 in Vienna. A well-known accompanist, he died on tour in America after an operation went wrong. He was there to accompany Elena Gerhardt. Enough evidence exists here to show he was a far more engaging composer than the more touted Urspruch. He’s wittier, sharper and less mired in Wagneriana for three things. His piano writing is droll and uplifting and his vocal lines attractive melodically. There’s a witty mandolin setting, delightful bee trills and romantic expression in Gottes Segen. One feels pianist Ulrich Urban really enjoying himself in these settings.
All three composers’ lives were sadly short ones. None made it to sixty. We need more from Urspruch to see how competent he really was. I know Thuille best for his chamber music but he wrote a substantial amount for the stage and voice and what relatively little we have in this recital is good. But it’s Wolff who most intrigues me. He wrote a Violin Concerto for the terrific Canadian violinist Kathleen Parlow. Is it still around? Has it been edited? If so, let’s hear it!
Jonathan Woolf

Three Austro-German contemporaries share a recital.