Alma MAHLER (1879-1964)
Lieder und Gesänge
Fünf Lieder [12:42]
Vier Lieder [11:58]
Fünf Gesänge [16:26]
Patrizia MONTANARO (b. 1956)
Canto di Penelope (Rosaria Lo Russo) (Melologue for soprano/actress and piano) [21:37]
Catharina Kroeger (soprano)
Monica Lonero (piano)
rec. October 2014, Digital Records, Rome, Italy
Sung texts available online
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95469 [63:45]
Alma Schindler studied composition from the age of sixteen and later met Alexander von Zemlinsky, with whom she also studied. When she met Gustav Mahler in 1901 she was forced to give up her studies and her composer career. At the end of his life Gustav had second thoughts and in 1910 he helped her publish Fünf Lieder. These songs were probably composed a decade earlier. After Gustav’s demise she published two more groups of songs: Vier Lieder (1915) and Fünf Gesänge (1924). Another two songs were published posthumously in 2000.
From time to time some of her songs appear in recitals and there have been a number of recordings. I have reviewed a couple of discs with the early Fünf Lieder (review) (review) and have a BIS disc from 1995 with songs by Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn besides of Alma Mahler’s songs: the Vier Lieder plus two songs from each of the other groups. The singer is Christina Högman. There are also at least three issues with all her songs. On Ondine Finnish mezzo-soprano Lilli Paasikivi sings all sixteen with orchestra accompaniment by Jorma Panula; on Ruth Ziesak, Iris Vermillion and Christian Elsner perform the 14 originally published songs with piano accompaniments by Cord Garben and with Alma’s teacher Zemlinsky’s songs Op. 7 as fillers; on Globe Charlotte Margiono sings all sixteen with orchestra and with Zemlinsky’s Waldesgespräch as filler. I haven’t heard any of these.
The present disc includes only the fourteen songs published during Alma’s lifetime. It’s a pity the two posthumous songs were omitted; there is space left. We don’t know much about the chronology of the songs, since few of them are dated or mentioned in her writings. However the Vier Lieder published in 1915 are more modern, harmonically, than the other two groups. Generally all the songs are well crafted and appealing though rather anonymous. Her ability to marry text with music is anyway conspicuous and it is valuable to have the songs collected in good readings. Catharina Kroeger has an agreeable, rather bright soprano and she sings sensitively and with fine nuances.
The “filler”, Patrizia Montanaro’s Canto di Penelope, has, as far as I understand, no connection with Alma Mahler – unless we regard both as strong-willed women. But while Penelope has been known for her fidelity to Odysseus, in spite of having many suitors, Alma Mahler seems to have been fairly promiscuous. Canto di Penelope was composed in 2003 for Catharina Kroeger, and it is subtitled Melologue for soprano-actress and piano. It is a fascinating work that takes some time to come to terms with. The vocal part ranges from spoken lines via Sprechgesang to pure singing. It is intense, dramatic and in long stretches also beautiful, although there are no melodies in the conventional sense. The piano part is very expressive. The texts are available at www.brilliantclassics.com but I would have preferred to have the translations side by side, not on separate pages.
Though not a genius – as her husband certainly was – it is still good to have Alma Mahler’s songs available at an affordable price – and in the bargain one gets the fascinating challenge of Canto di Penelope.
1. Die stille Stadt (Richard Dehmel) [2:40]
2. In meines Vaters Garten (Otto Erich Hartleben) [5:26]
3. Laue Sommernacht (Otto Julius Bierbaum) [1:52]
4. Bei dir ist es traut (Rainer Maria Rilke) [1:52]
5. Ich wandle unter Blumen (Heinrich Heine) [0:52]
6. Licht in der Nacht (Bierbaum) [3:28]
7. Waldseligkeit (Dehmel) [2:31]
8. Ansturm (Dehmel) [1:39]
9. Emtelied (Gustav Falke) [4:10]
10. Hymne (Novalis) [4:58]
11. Ekstase (Bierbaum) [2:35]
12. Der Erkennende (Franz Werfel) [2:48]
13. Lobgesang (Dehmel) [3:05]
14. Hymne an die Nacht (Novalis) [3:20]