Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897–1957)
Unvergänglichkeit, Op. 27 (Eleonore van der Strooten) [10:05]
Karl GOLDMARK (1830–1915)
12 Gesänge, Op. 18 [27:21]
4 Lieder, Op. 21 (L. G. Silbergleit after Robert Burns) [10:54]
4 Lieder, Op. 34 [9:20]
Cornelia Hübsch (soprano)
Charles Spencer (piano)
rec. 4tune Studios, Wien, 14–17 October 2015
No song texts enclosed
Première Portraits series
CAPRICCIO C3004 [57:45]

Capriccio continues its series of “Première portraits” in the same manner as before: brief biographies of the artists and a simple track-list but not a word about the composers and the music – and no texts. One can do without composer portraits when we deal with standard repertoire and well-known composers – and Korngold must be regarded as well-known today, which he wasn’t some forty years ago. Goldmark, I’m afraid, is rather obscure today. He was born in Hungary to a large Jewish family. He learnt playing the violin at an early age and was sent by his father to Vienna for further studies. There he ran out of money and earned his living by playing in theatre orchestras. As a composer he was largely self-taught but through practical experience he became a masterly orchestrator. He was a teacher as well and Sibelius studied with him for a while. Moreover he wrote musical criticism and managed to promote both Brahms and Wagner, who actually belonged to polarized camps. He was a friend of Brahms but, being a Jew, never got close to Wagner, even though he was greatly influenced by him and in 1872 he took active part in the foundation of the Vienna Wagner Society. During his lifetime Goldmark was hailed as a composer but after his death interest in his music waned. He died in Vienna in 1915 and is buried in the Zentralfriedhof, where many prominent musical personalities are also interred. However his grave is not among those of the great luminaries.

Some twenty years ago my wife and I went to Zentralfriedhof (the Central Cemetery) which is not in central Vienna but in the outskirts, in the Simmering district. It is the largest cemetery in Europe with over 330,000 graves. We by mistake went off the underground one stop too early and after a short walk we were in the Jewish cemetery. It was a cold, rainy day in late November and we were surrounded by hundreds of ravens. The atmosphere was truly ghostly. Suddenly my eyes fell on an imposing grave-stone, close to the path we were walking on, and there I read the name Karl Goldmark. Among so many graves it was a remarkable coincidence to stumble on this grave, many hundred metres from where those of the famous composers are to be found. He is not completely forgotten today, however. There is a violin concerto that is played and recorded occasionally and then there is the “Rustic Wedding” symphony (review review) – both works created in the mid-1870s. So also was the third work for which he is known today: the grand opera Die Königin von Saba, which was so popular that it remained in the repertoire of the Vienna State Opera until 1938. There's a lot more in his work-list: one further symphony, an unpublished violin concerto, another six operas, numerous chamber music works, some piano compositions, a number of choral pieces and more than forty songs.

The set of twelve songs Op. 18 on this disc was his first attempt at song composing. It was published in 1869, but I have no indication when they were actually composed. These are attractive songs, rather typical of the period: I wouldn’t call them Brahms with water; they are generally lighter in tone than most of Brahms’ songs. The opening Sonntagsruhe is calm and beautiful - idyllic in fact. Das kahle Grab on the other hand is dramatic and ballad-like. In the lively Die Quelle one can hear water running in the accompaniment while the Byron setting Weinet um sie is dark. In other words Goldmark is very sensitive to the content of his chosen texts. It would have been nice to have them for more detailed study. The last four songs in this group are all in the manner of folksong. In particular Wir gingen zusammen could well serve as a nice encore to any song recital.

The Four Lieder op. 21 were published in 1873 and they are settings of poems by Robert Burns, translated and adapted for German readers by L. G. Silbergleit. Silbergleit’s collection was published in 1870, so it seems that Goldmark set to work on them very soon after publication. All four songs are little gems and they are sensitively sung. The same goes for the four songs op. 34, published in 1880, where Die Nachtigall, als ich sie fragte is truly intense.

Korngold, as I intimated earlier, is a much better known quantity today, even though his songs have taken some time to win listeners. The mini-cycle Unvergänglichkeit Op. 27 from 1933 is certainly Korngold at his most enticing. The title song, which is reprised at the end of the group, is achingly beautiful. The piano accompaniment in Das eilende Bächlein tells us that this is no small brook – probably full of sharp stones. Das schlafende Kind is a beautiful lullaby and Stärker als der Tod has a very expressive, ominous piano accompaniment. The reprise of Unvergänglichkeit comes as balm afterwards.

Cornelia Hübsch sings the whole programme as to the manner born. She is secure, nuanced and has agreeable tone and power in reserve for the more dramatic songs. Charles Spencer has worked with many of the greatest Lieder singers and recorded prolifically. Here, in songs that can hardly be everyday fare for him, he is a great inspiration for the singer.

As for alternative versions, Korngold’s songs are well represented in current catalogues, including a recent Capriccio 2-CD set with his complete songs, sung by Konrad Jarnot and Adrienne Pieczonka. It was reviewed at MusicWeb International in December 2015 and was a Recording of the Month. The Goldmark songs recorded here are also available on a Hungaroton disc, which I haven’t heard, with mezzo-soprano Jutta Bokor. Anyone wanting to make Goldmark’s acquaintance as song composer and getting some of Korngold’s loveliest songs as a bonus can invest in the present disc with confidence.

Göran Forsling
Track listing
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897–1957)
Unvergänglichkeit, Op. 27 (Eleonore van der Strooten)
1. Unvergänglichkeit [2:06]
2. Das eilende Bächlein [1:49]
3. Das schlafende Kind [2:08]
4. Stärker als der Tod [1:41]
5. Unvergänglichkeit [2:21]
Karl GOLDMARK (1830–1915)
12 Gesänge, Op. 18
6. No. 1 Sonntagsruhe (Klaus Groth) [2:27]
7. No. 2 Wenn die Lerche zieht (Klaus Groth) [1:20]
8. No. 3 Das kahle Grab (Klaus Groth) [5:35]
9. No. 4 Der Wald wird dichter [2:44]
10. No. 5 Die Quelle (Adelbert von Chamisso) [2:13]
11. No. 6 Schlage nicht die feuchten Augen nieder (Emanuel von Geibel) [2:04]
12. No. 7 Weinet um sie (Lord Byron) [2:32]
13. No. 8 So lach‘ doch einmal (Klaus Groth) [1:12]
14. No. 9 Wir gingen zusammen (Klaus Groth) [1:01]
15. No. 10 Er sagt‘ mir so viel (Klaus Groth) [1:59]
16. No. 11 O willst mich nicht mitnehmen (Klaus Groth) [1:49]
17. No. 12 Herzeleid (Anomymus) [2:28]
4 Lieder, Op. 21 (L. G. Silbergleit after Robert Burns)
18. No. 1 Ström’ leise [4:34]
19. No. 2 Marie [2:13]
20. No. 3 Wollt’ er nur fragen [1:42]
21. No. 4 Franz [2:26]
4 Lieder, Op. 34
22. No. 1 Sommerlied (Ferdinand von Saar) [2:56]
23. No. 2 Wenn ich dich seh‘ so lieb und hold (F. M. von Bodenstedt) [1:59]
24. No. 3 Die Nachtigall, als ich sie fragte (F. M. von Bodenstedt) [2:58]
25. No. 4 Im Garten fand ich (F. M. von Bodenstedt) [1:26]

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