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Aufbruch - Songs to poems by Hesse and Goethe
Full contents list at end of review
Sophia Brommer (soprano), Alexander Schmalcz (piano)
rec. 19-21 April 2013, Studio 1, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich
Sung texts enclosed but no translations
OEHMS OC 877 [63:30]

Since completing her studies in 2007 Sophia Brommer has been a permanent member of the ensemble at the Augsburg Theatre in roles like Konstanze, Donna Anna, Lucia, Liù, Micaëla, Lulu and Violetta. She also has a passion for Lieder-singing. It was her love of the literary works of Hermann Hesse that inspired her to the choice of repertoire for this disc. Goethe-settings are not difficult to find, but Hesse is a bit harder to come by. Thus we have here several songs that are a bit off the beaten track.
Schumann’s four Mignon-Lieder are part of Lieder aus Wilhelm Meister, encompassing nine songs. They are rarely heard as a set, even though Kennst du das Land and Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt appear individually in recital and on discs from time to time. Sophia Brommer’s attractive voice is fresh and pearls like a spring-brook. So laβt mich scheinen (tr. 4), in particular, becomes a gem in this reading.
The Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck produced an enormous number of songs. A quick count gives 408 songs with opus numbers and another 132 without. This total of 540 places him near the top of the all-time greats in the genre. Not all of them are for voice and piano, but around 400 traditional Lieder isn’t too bad either. The four Goethe settings from Op. 19a are fairly early works, from before the Great War. Schoeck works in a romantic tradition with threads going back to Schumann, even though the delicious Mit einem gemalten Band (tr. 5) is more Schubert-like, even Mozartean. His harmonic pallet is rich and he knows - and loves - and loves the human voice. It’s a pity his songs are so seldom heard today, especially since his instrumental music and also some of his operas have been recorded more than once during the last twenty years or so. Ungeduld (tr. 8), fast and short should be an excellent appetizer and an inspiration for investigating his music further. A couple of the six Hesse-settings are later creations including Für Ninon, a homage to his third wife. Whether it is a musical portrait of her is difficult to tell; if so she must have been reserved and almost ascetic. Jahrestag on the other hand is full of life and sumptuously romantic. Pfeifen is also outgoing, scherzo-like, while Kennst du das auch? is contemplative, even sorrowful. Keine Rast, again Schumann-like, is another appetizer - marvellously atmospheric.
Between these two groups of Schoeck-songs we meet another Lied-composer with an enormous production: with around 790 songs he even tops Schubert. Yrjö Kilpinen was Finnish but studied in Berlin and set a large quantity of German poetry. During the 1930s and 1940s he was the most famous Finnish composer after Sibelius. The great German baritone Gerhard Hüsch championed his songs, recording many of them in a society edition. The seven Hesse-settings Op. 97 are basically simple and short and rather barren. In that respect they can be seen as typically Finnish, but scratch the surface and one finds that there are several layers to discover. They need to be listened to several times to lay bare their greatness. Try Traum (tr. 15) as an ear-opener.
The concluding group is better-known than anything else on this disc, but they are performed here with piano accompaniment. Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder are so intimately connected with the orchestral accompaniment, I would even say conceived as such. However skilfully and sensitively Alexander Schmalcz plays the piano part it is only a very distant approximation of the original. Then again, listened to unprejudiced they still have a lot to offer. Sophia Brommer sings them very beautifully. Once one has become acclimatised to her habit of beginning a long note without any vibrato at all and then gradually letting the tone expand, these stand as inward and moving readings.
By and large the music here is little known and it is valuable to get some background information. Klaus Kalchschmid’s liner notes provide exactly what one needs. The recording is good and the disc is a golden opportunity to get to know some interesting repertoire off the beaten track.
Göran Forsling 

Full contents list 
Robert SCHUMANN (1810 - 1856)
Lieder der Mignon, Op. 98a (Goethe)
1. Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn [4:02]
2. Heiβ‘ mich nicht reden [3:28]
3. Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt [2:13]
4. So laβt mich scheinen [2:45]
Othmar SCHOECK (1886 - 1957)
Lieder nach Gedichten von J.W. von Goethe, Op. 19a
5. Mit einem gemalten Band [2:18]
6. Dämmerung senkte sich von oben [2:40]
7. Herbstgefühl [2:04]
8. Ungeduld [0:55]
Yrjö KILPINEN (1892 - 1959)
Liederfolge, Op. 97, nach Gedichten von Hermann Hesse
9. Liebeslied [1:16]
10. Wo mag meine Heimat sein? [0:52]
11. Dunkle Augen [2:00]
12. Ich fragte dich [1:31]
13. Allein [0:59]
14. Glück [1:58]
15. Traum [3:06]
Lieder nach Gedichten von Hermann Hesse
16. Jahrestag [1:05]
17. Für Ninon [1:46]
18. Pfeifen [1:08]
19. Kennst du das auch? [1:30]
20. Was lachst du so? [1:00]
21. Keine Rast [2:10]
Richard STRAUSS (1864 - 1949)
Vier letzte Lieder
22. Frühling (Hermann Hesse) [3:23]
23. September (Hermann Hesse) [4:56]
24. Beim Schlafengehen (Hermann Hesse) [5:10]
25. Im Abendrot (Joseph von Eichendorff) [6:55]