Schöne Welt … Franz SCHUBERT (1797–1828) Die Götter Griechenlands, D677 (F.v.Schiller) [4:03] An den Mond, D296 (Goethe Nachlass) (J.W.v.Goethe) [3:52] An den Mond, Op. 57 No. 3, D193 (L.H.Ch.Hölty) [3:36] Im Abendrot, D799) (K.G.Lappe) [3:53] Franz SCHREKER (1878–1934)
5 Lieder Op. 3 (Paul Heyse): In alten Tagen [1:52]; Im Lenz [2:15];
Das Glück [2:42]; Es kommen Blätter [3:32]; Umsonst [1:28] Franz SCHUBERT Das Mädchen, D652 (Friedrich von Schlegel) [2:38] Die junge Nonne, Op. 43 No. 1, D828 (J.N. de Jachelutta) [5:14] Schwestergruss, D762 (F.S. von Bruchmann) [6:29] Der Tod und das Mädchen, Op. 7 No. 3, D531 (M. Claudius) [3:25] Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897–1957)
Drei Lieder Op. 22: Was du mir bist … (Eleonore van der Straten) [3:04];
Mit Dir zu schweigen (Karl Kobald) [2:00]; Welt ist stille eingeschlafen (Karl Kobald) [2:55] Franz SCHUBERT
Ellens Gesänge Op. 52, D837-39 (A. Storck): Raste Krieger [8:42]; Jäger, ruhe von der Jagd [3:35];
Ave Maria [7:04]
Anne Schwanewilms (soprano) Charles Spencer (piano)
rec. Berlin, Studio Britz, 24–28 August 2015
Sung texts enclosed but no translations CAPRICCIO C5233 [73:27]
On a previous disc (review), also with Charles Spencer at the piano, Anne Schwanewilms partnered songs by Liszt and Mahler in a very satisfying recital. On the present disc she presents another mix with Schubert as the main theme and with two later composers, neither of them primarily known as song writers. Korngold, who today is accepted as one of the important composers after many years neglect, was first and foremost an orchestral wizard. Schreker is still a fairly peripheral name, best known for his opera Der ferne Klang and likewise a great orchestrator and an influence on Korngold. There seems to be a Schreker revival in progress however, and the five early songs on this disc could well be an ear-opener for many listeners.
Let me just mention that Wikipedia’s fairly extensive article on Schreker doesn’t mention his songs at all. Probably they were not regarded as very important when they were written, while Schreker was studying at the Vienna Conservatory in the late 1890s. The poems are by Paul Heise, who a good decade later was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. They must have been inspirational, since the songs are attractive and between them strongly contrasted. In alten Tagen is beautifully late-romantic with nostalgic undertones. Im Lenz is not the jubilant spring hymn one would expect but rather agitated: “In Spring when violets blossom, take care – then the tears awake.” Das Glück is ecstatic expressionist while Es kommen Blätter is again a sad spring song: “Leaves come, flowers come, but my heart feels no spring”. The concluding song is full of dramatic gestures. Readers who know Schreker solely for his operas and orchestral works – and they are not frequently heard either – are recommended to try these songs for another side of the composer.
Korngold, who was the most remarkable musical infant prodigy of the twentieth century, was a well-established composer when in 1928 he set the three poems recorded here. His characteristic melodic gift is easily recognizable. He had shown his prowess in creating memorable melodies in the successful opera Die tote Stadt almost a decade earlier. While these songs may not be memorable in the same way they are certainly attractive. Two of the poems were, by the way, written by Viennese musicologist Karl Kobald, who wrote three books on Schubert. So there are natural connections in the choice of composers.
All the Schubert songs on this disc have naturally been recorded frequently, some of them well-known to almost all the millions of listeners who still appreciate classical music. Many readers will surely have their own favourite recordings, but Anne Schwanewilms can stand comparison with most of them. The opening quartet of songs is a good litmus test of her abilities in terms of sensitivity, restraint and sheer beauty of tone. Im Abendrot has rarely been better interpreted. In the second quartet we can savour her care over nuance in Das Mädchen, and in Die junge Nonne Ms Schwanewilms reminds us that she is a dramatic opera soprano as well, singing Richard Strauss and Wagner.
The third Schubert group consists of Ellen’s three songs, of which the third is the immortal Ave Maria. Marian Anderson made a legendary recording of this in the late 1930s, a recording often played on the Gramophone Hour on the radio in the 1950s. Anne Schwanewilms sings it just as beautifully but is more idiomatic. The other two are among the most operatic of Schubert’s songs and they are treated to highly concentrated readings.
I hope that I have made it clear that I very much like what I hear on this disc. That said, I can’t resist quoting how I concluded my review of the Liszt/Mahler disc, which is as valid for the present one: “Her voice encompasses all the requirements for intimate lyrical songs as well the big dramatic outbursts and her tone is certainly among the most beautiful to be heard today. She has a pliable accompanist in the experienced Charles Spencer and the recording is excellent.”