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Von ewiger Liebe
Johannes BRAHMS (1833 - 1897)
Zigeunerlieder, Op. 103 (Gypsy Songs) & other songs
Gustav MAHLER (1860 - 1911)
Five Rückert Songs
Alban BERG (1885 - 1935)
Seven Early Songs
see end of review for track listing
Ayelet Amots-Avramson (mezzo), Jonathan Zak (piano)
rec. The Classical Studio, Herzliyah, Israel. No dates given.
Sung texts with English translations enclosed.
ROMEO RECORDS 7288 [70:10]

Experience Classicsonline

Ayelet Amots-Avramson was new to me. This Israeli singer calls herself a mezzo, though her timbre is not particularly mezzo-ish. On the other hand her highest notes can sometimes be a bit insecure and in Um Mitternacht her lowest range is so strong that she could be mistaken for a contralto. Her mid-register is powerful and she has dramatic qualities but according to her bio she has rather been active in baroque repertoire on the opera stage. She is partnered by Jonathan Zak, who for many years has been one of the foremost Israeli musicians, as soloist, chamber musician and accompanist. He is an attentive player who listens to his singer, as I have been able to note on several earlier occasions.
In the ten Brahms songs Amots-Avramson shows good understanding of the idiom and delivers very nuanced readings. It may be unfair to single out some of the songs but Auf dem Kirchhofe (tr. 5) is a gem and so is Der Tod das ist die kühle Nacht (tr. 7). The well known Die Mainacht (tr. 8) is also one to return to and the intense Meine Liebe ist grün (tr. 10) is a worthy final song in this group.
The Gypsy Songs are very different in character and belong to the composer’s lighter vein, a kind of parallel to the Hungarian Dances, which Brahms called ‘my gypsy children’. They were originally written for a vocal quartet - like the Liebeslieder Waltzer - and later arranged for solo voice. They are charming and should be successful encores. My favourites are the almost operetta-like Brauner Bursche (tr. 15 and the lovely Kommt dir manchmal (tr. 17). Here the singing is not as confident as in the ‘real’ Brahms group but they are worth a listen even so.
The five Rückert songs are more problematic. I believe most readers regard them as orchestral songs but Jonathan Zak’s playing is so skilful that one more or less forgets that it is only a piano we are hearing. That said, the readings are uneven and it was a great relief that my personal favourite, Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (tr. 22) is as inward and as concentrated as it should be.
The Alban Berg songs are from his youth. He was only twenty when he started composing but he needed three years to complete them. This was before he had assimilated the atonal idiom of his teacher Schönberg and the models are Brahms and Debussy. With hindsight one may be able to trace harmonies that point forward to the composer’s mature style but by and large these are late-romantic songs. Of the poets Carl Hauptmann, who wrote Nacht was the older brother of Gerhart Hauptmann, Nobel Prize winner in 1912. Otto Erich Hartleben in Liebesode, is best remembered as a translator. It was his translation of Pierrot Lunaire that Schönberg set as a melodrama. Also here there are some vocal deficiencies but the readings are expressive and nuanced.
I have no qualms about the recording and I derived a lot of pleasure from this programme.
Göran Forsling

Masterwork Index: Mahler's Rückert lieder

Track listing
Johannes BRAHMS (1833 - 1897)
1. Dein blaues Auge Op. 59 No. 8 [2:02]
2. Von ewiger Liebe Op. 63 No. 5 [4:11]
3. Botschaft Op. 47 No. 1 [1:52]
4. Bei dir sind meine Gedanken Op. 95 No. 2 [1:34]
5. Auf dem Kirchhofe Op. 105 No. 3 [2:37]
6. Verzagen Op. 72 No. 4 [2:38]
7. Der Tod das ist die kühle Nacht Op. 96 No. 1 [2:48]
8. Die Mainacht Op. 43 No. 2 [3:29]
9. Der Jäger Op. 95 No. 4 [1:07]
10. Meine Liebe ist grün Op. 63 No. 5 [1:34]
Zigeunerlieder, Op. 103 (Gypsy Songs)
11. He, Zigeuner [1:01]
12. Hochgetrümte Rimaflut [1:14]
13. Wisst ihr, wann mein Kindchen ... [1:35]
14. Lieber Gott, du weisst [1:16]
15. Brauner Bursche [1:28]
16. Röslein dreie [1:30]
17. Kommt dir manchmal [2:10]
18. Rote Abendwolken ziehn [1:26]
Gustav MAHLER (1860 - 1911)
Five Rückert Songs
19. Liebst du um Schönheit [2:41]
20. Ich atmet’ einen Linden duft [2:49]
21. Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder [1:23]
22. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen [5:40]
23. Um Mitternacht [6:18]
Alban BERG (1885 - 1935)
Seven Early Songs
24. Nacht [4:06]
25. Schilflied [2:04]
26. Die Nachtigall [2:01]
27. Traumgekrönt [2:35]
28. Im Zimmer [1:14]
29. Liebesode [1:52]
30. Sommertage [1:38]

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