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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Songs from the Netherlands
Bertha Frensel WEGENER-KOOPMAN (1874-1953)
Ein Stündchen lang [1:54]
Frauenhände [3:37]
Und hab’so grosse Sehnsucht doch [1:28]
Ich will den Sturm! [1:54]
Alphons DIEPENBROCK (1862-1921)
De klare dag (1884) [5:48]
Meinacht [3:42]
L’Invitation au voyage (1913) [6:15]
Es war ein alter König [2:29]
Berceuse (1912) [5:45]
Bernard WAGENAAR (1894-1971)
At Dusk [3:36]
May Night [1:56]
I Stood In Dreams of Darkness [3:05]
Louis Victor SAAR (1868-1937)
Sell Me A Dream, Op.112 No.5 [2:35]
To One I Love [2:17]
Liebes-Ode, Op.54 No.3 [2:06]
Four Seasons: a Canadian Song Cycle, Op.119 [5:52]
Anny Mesritz van VELTHUYSEN (1887-1965)
Trois Chansons [9:48]
Elisabeth von Magnus (soprano)
Jacob Bogaart (piano)
Quirine Viersen (cello: Berceuse)
rec. November 2004 and October 2007, Eindhoven and Hilversum
Original texts but no translations

This disc of Dutch songs – which is not the same thing as songs in Dutch – comes from the Netherlands Music Institute, an organisation that has propagandized eloquently on behalf of Dutch music and its performance on disc, past and present. The recording was made a number of years ago – in 2004 and 2007, to be precise – but as the music is still so little performed and recorded this 65-minute vocal recital gives an attractive focus on the five named composers.

The earliest-born of the composing quintet is also the best known: Alphons Diepenbrock. The songs range from the mid-1880s to 1913, when he was 51 and interestingly he is the only composer in this selection of 22 songs to set Dutch lyrics. Two of his five songs take native texts. His long expressive lines are always pleasing, and the barcarolle-cum-habanera of L’invitation au voyage is especially rewarding to hear. The convivial Berceuse was written for the husband-and-wife team of Gérard and Julie Hekking, cellist and soprano respectively, and is a charming, light, salon effusion.

Bertha Frensel Wegener-Koopman gave up a very promising stage career for teaching, though she continued to compose. Singers from Julia Culp to Jo Vincent sang her songs in recitals internationally. The compilers of the disc have chosen well, contrasting plangent late-Romanticism, tinged with Straussian rhetoric, in Ein Stündchen lang with a fervent Ich will den sturm. A light dusting of early impressionism hangs over a couple of the settings. Louis Victor Saar studied largely in Munich before leaving for the United States in 1894 whereupon he was soon engaged by Dvořák, no less, to teach at the National Conservatory in New York. He spent the remainder of his professional life teaching in a succession of cities. He too favours moments that are light and lyric with others that are more overtly Straussian. The song cycle Four Seasons, subtitled a ‘Canadian song cycle’ evocatively evokes blizzard onrush as well as limpid treble-trilling. This is delightful nature-narrative depiction, unfussy and to the point. If Gerald Finzi favoured the Fall of the Leaf, Saar is all for The Fall of the Snowflake.

Bernard Wagenaar, whose music survives on the periphery of the repertoire, is represented by three songs in which he sets poems by Verlaine and Heine, as well as Edward B Koster; this last is especially reflective yet tautly conceived. Anny Mesritz van Velthuysen was a pianist but turned to composition; Mengelberg conducted some of her music in Amsterdam. The three French settings show that she embraced impressionism more devoutly than any other composer and knew how to distil atmosphere via the subtlest means. Her Trois Chansons is something of a find.

The performers are ardent interpreters of these songs. Sometimes Elisabeth von Magnus pushes quite high and the result is stridency, but for the most part she sings with assurance, not least when clarifying the different expressive temperatures of these sometimes very disparate songs. Jacob Bogaart is the watchful, eloquent accompanist.

The recording is good, but there is time for few brief caveats. There are few specific dates of composition in the notes, and the song texts, whilst printed, are only in the original language set. There are no translations. Nevertheless, these are rare examples of songs by Dutch composers, and they have been attractively presented.

Jonathan Woolf



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