Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Complete Songs (Sämtliche Lieder)
Including seven world première recordings
(see track listing for song titles at the end of this review)
Konrad Jarnot (baritone); Adrianne Pieczonka (soprano); Reinild Mees (piano)
rec. Jesus-Christus-Kirche Berlin Dahlem, 30 Sept- 3 Oct 2013; Andreaskirche Berlin Wannsee. 13-14 July 2014
CAPRICCIO C5252 [74:54 + 74.43]
This 2 CD set claims 60 songs thus providing a complete Korngold song collection. It very nearly did not qualify for Recording of the Month status because of its presentation values. Granted that we now have a number of recordings of Korngold’s delightful and approachable songs, but full international recognition is not helped by the lack of English language translations of the published German texts in the accompanying booklet. Neither is there a URL link to a site on which Capriccio might have mounted such translations.
Korngold’s first song, Der Knabe und das Veilchen dates from 1905 – an incredible achievement for a seven year old boy – and the composer’s final song Sonett für Wien was composed in 1950. Both are included here.
Regarding the quality of the thirteen songs, composed when Erich was twelve, that comprise the collection (twelve originally) inscribed ‘So Gott und Papa will’ (If God and Papa allows), it is astounding that Papa (the feared music critic Julius Korngold) did not approve and Korngold felt obliged to return to the collection in 1913. He selected three – Schneeglőckchen, Das Ständchen and Nachtwanderer - and added three other songs to comprise his Sechs Einfache Lieder Op. 9 (tracks 14 to 19). Of these I would mention just three: the lovely simplicity of the Ländler-like Aussicht, the heartfelt longing of the beautiful melody that is Vom Berge and Vesper with its evocative tolling bell sounds in the piano accompaniment.
Baritone, Konrad Jarnot, has the lion’s share of these songs with his soprano partner contributing just eight on CD2. Jarnot has real presence with impeccable diction. He imbues each song with intelligence, imagination and colour and has the gift of ‘acting’ the gist of the words.
Of the aforementioned Sechs Einfache Lieder, all are attractive but I would mention the lovely romantic Liebesbriefchen and the equally enchanting Sommer that will be performed again by the soprano as the first song on CD2.
The Lieder des Abschieds (Songs of Farewell) have long been favourites of mine. Korngold’s settings of Christina (not Georgina as in the booklet) Rossetti’s ‘Requiem’ (the song here entitled Sterbelied) (“When I am dead my dearest, Sing no sad songs for me”) and of Ernst Lothar’s Mond, so gehst du wieder auf (Moon, you rise again) with the words “Moon … Teach me how not to long for her”, never fail to bring a lump to the throat of this reviewer. The latter song has a piano part that is particularly affecting. Incidentally, in 1993 Chandos released a Korngold album (CHAN 9171 or CHAN10431X) that included the orchestral version of these songs hauntingly sung by contralto Linda Finnie with the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Sir Edward Downes. I wholeheartedly agree with Brendan Carroll who suggested, "The Lieder Des Abschieds are probably his finest work in the genre".
Of the Drei Gesänger Op. 18 I would mention the first In meine innige Nacht. This is seemingly trance-like, a troubled-dream a desolate, inconsolable unreality. It reminded me very much of Korngold’s score for the film Between Two Worlds. Nachts, too, is stalked by spectres of separation and death and the influences of Mahler and Strauss are evident.
Of the four Unvergänglichkeit songs that end the first CD, the opening song of the same name is charming and lyrical, and the third, Das schlafende Kind, a nostalgic lullaby for a little child, has a most poignant melody.
CD2 introduces the Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka who has a honey-toned yet powerfully projected voice, sensitive to each song and technically secure through the odd coloratura-style passage. She opens with another version of the delightful Sommer. She then turns to the first of the two main arias from Korngold’s opera, Die tote Stadt, the sublime, voluptuous Marietta’s Lied while Jarnot sings the lovelorn clown’s aria Tanzlied des Pierrot in which he remembers the happy days long gone when his love was young but destined “never to last”. Ms Pieczonka sings two of the Op. 22 Drei Lieder of which the third, Welt ist stille weingeschafen is charmingly romantic especially with its twinkling accompaniment. She also sings the Op. 31 Four Shakespeare Songs ranging from the tragically desperate cries of “Sing willow, willow, willow,” from Desdemona’s Song to the carefree When Birds Do Sing with its joyful refrain “Sweet lovers love the Spring’.
We return to Jarnot in more Shakespeare in the five Songs of the Clown. Although he has near impeccable English diction I felt he was not quite so comfortable in his interpretations as in his native German language material. He was more at ease singing about the rain every day and languishing Under the Greenwood Tree than being 'laid in sad cypress' in Come Away Death.
Korngold’s Fünf Lieder Op. 38 were written in America and were mainly associated with his work for Warner Bros films. I would mention the gorgeous I Wish You Bliss derived from the main theme for Devotion (1943). The final My Mistress's Eyes of this group is cruelly ironic (except for the final redeeming lines) in damning the mistress’s attributes with faint praise. Of special interest is the Sonett für Wien. Its melodious lines come from the incredibly effulgent melodic score of the film Escape Me Never.
Finally we come to the eight songs of the Einzeine Lieder, seven of which are recorded for the first time. Many of them are waltz songs, pleasant enough but really nothing special it has to be said. ‘Ausser’ is worth mentioning as a nice gentle parody on Viennese operetta music.
Throughout Reinild Mees provides consistently fine unobtrusive but nicely nuanced accompaniments. Her contribution again and again lifts the artistic value of this excellent set.
I would add that two other Korngold collections are worth considering: by Dietrich Henschel on a 2001 Harmonia Mundi recording (HMC901780) and the Naxos recordings with Britta Stallmeister (soprano), Uwe Schenker-Primus (baritone) and Klaus Simon (piano), the first appearing in 2008 as Naxos 8.572027. Nor should we forget the 1999 Deutsche Grammophon set from Anne Sofie Von Otter (DG 4596312).
If not the best then certainly one of the best collections of Korngold’s very appealing songs.
So Gott und Papa will:-
1. Abendlandschaft [1:40]
2. Angedenken [2:09]
3. Aussicht [1:14]
4. Das Madchen [1:30]
5. Der Friedensbote [1:25]
6. Der Geniale [0:50]
7. Die Sperlinge [1:14]
8. Reiselied [1:45]
9. Sangesmut [1:19]
10. Vesper [2:36]
11. Vom Berge [2:00]
12. Waldeinsamkeit [2:34]
13. Winternacht [2:12]
Sechs einfache Lieder:-
14. No. 1. Schneeglockchen [3:13]
15. No. 2. Nachtwanderer [2:21]
16. No. 3. Standchen [2:09]
17. No. 4. Liebesbriefchen [2:26]
18. No. 5. Das Heldengrab am Pruth [2:56]
19. No. 6. Sommer [2:49]
Lieder des Abschieds:-
20. No. 1. Sterbelied [4:21]
21. No. 2. Dies eine kann mein Sehnen nimmer fassen [2:30]
22. No. 3. Mond, so gehst du wieder auf [4:29]
23. No. 4. Gefasster Abschied [3:26]
Drei Gesänger Op. 18
24. No. 1. In meine innige Nacht [4:26]
25. No. 2. Tu ab den Schmerz [2:37]
26. No. 3. Versuchung [2:42]
27. Nachts [2:46]
Unverganglichkeit (The Eternal), Op. 27 (excerpts)
28. No. 1. Unverganglichkeit I (Eternity I) [2:37]
29. No. 2. Das eilende Bachlein (The Rushing Brook) [1:51]
30. No. 3. Das schlafende Kind (The Sleeping Child) [2:33]
31. No. 4. Starker als der Tod (Stronger than Death) [1:32]
1 Sechs Einfache Lieder, Op. 9: No. 6. Sommer (2nd version) [2.41]
Die tote Stadt (The Dead City):
2. Die tote Stadt (The Dead City), Op. 12, Act I Scene 5: Gluck, das mir verblieb [5:08]
3. Die tote Stadt (The Dead City), Act II Scene 3: Mein Sehnen, mein Wahnen [4:58]
Drei Lieder Op 22
4. Was Du mir bist … (What You are for Me …) [3:53]
5. Mit Dir zu schweigen … (To be Silent with You …) [2:20]
6. Welt ist stille eingeschlafen … (World has Quietly Fallen Asleep …) [2:36]
Songs of the Clown, Op. 29:-
7. Come Away, Death [2:32]
8. O Mistress Mine 00:02:34
9. Adieu, Good Man Devil [0:51]
10. Hey Robin [0:54]
11. For the Rain, It Raineth Every Day [2:50]
Four Shakespeare Songs:-
12. Desdemona's Song [2:37]
13. Under the Greenwood Tree [2:11]
14. Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind [2:09]
15. When Birds Do Sing [2:10]
Fünf Lieder Op. 38:-
16. Gluckwunsch [2:43]
17. Der Kranke [2:39]
18. Alt – Spanisch [1:17]
19. Old English Song [1:00]
20. My Mistress' Eyes [2:24]
21. Sonett fur Wien, Op. 41 [3:06]
Einzeine Lieder:- * World premiere recordings
22. Der Knabe und das Veilchen* [1:42]
23. Kleiner Wunsch* [0:42]
24. Der innere Scharm* [4:22]
25. Ausser* [3:40]
26. Die Gansleber im Hause Duschnitz [2:57]
27. Quinquaginta - Foxtrott * [1:02]
28. Osterreichischer Soldatenabschied* [3:00]
29. Kaiserin Zita – Hymne* [2:45]