Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Whispering Mozart
Marianne Beate Kielland (mezzo-soprano)
Nils Anders Mortensen (piano)
rec. Vågan Church, Lofoten, Norway, March 2014
Sung texts with English translations enclosed LAWO CLASSICS LWC1111 [65:16]
Whispering Mozart may need an explanation. Marianne Beate Kielland writes in the foreword: “To do the songs of Mozart is indeed something of a challenge, precisely because they are so simple. Excessive pathos or outpouring of feeling is unsuitable. Emotion is to be expressed, of course, but it must be confined to the delicate and simpler limits that Mozart has established. I have chosen, therefore, to call the album «Whispering Mozart», for that is how it feels to sing this material: as though you are whispering the words and melodies to the few who have gathered in your living room to listen…”
And that is exactly my feeling when I listen to this album: I am sitting in Marianne Beate Kielland’s living room, we are maybe a dozen, since it is a spacious room. But Marianne Beate and her accompanist Nils Anders are just a couple of meters away and we all feel that they sing and play for us and for no others. We have eye contact and even though I like to listen with eyes closed, I feel the presence of the artists. This must have been the situation in the parlours in Mozart’s time. Even though the instrument here is a modern grand, it is played with the delicacy of fortepiano. The atmosphere is cosy and inviting, the other listeners are well-behaved: an ideal milieu for an evening with songs.
Mozart wrote songs during his whole life, from Daphne, deine Rosenwangen (tr. 20) and An die Freude (tr. 11) in 1768 to Eine kleine deutsche Kantate (tr. 9) in July 1791. Daphne is musically identical with an aria in his singspiel Bastien und Bastienne. Between these occasions he returned to the song genre only intermittently. 1780 was one such year, represented here by Ich würd’ auf meinem Pfad (tr. 12) and An die Einsamkeit (tr. 16). The next song year was 1785, with important songs like Der Zauberer (tr. 15), Die Betrogene (tr. 4) and Das Veilchen (tr. 10). In 1787 followed Das Lied der Trennung (tr. 3), Als Luisedie Briefe ihres ungetreuen Liebhabers verbrannte (tr. 7), Abendempfindung (tr. 8) and An Chloë (tr. 5). Finally, on 14 January 1791, three songs: Sehnsucht nach dem Frühling (tr. 2)—the melody taken from the rondo finale of Mozart’s last piano concerto, finished a week and a half earlier—Im Frühlingsanfang (tr. 19) and Das Kinderspiel (not on this disc). These songs and a couple of others are included here, not in chronological order, but together they give an excellent overview of Mozart’s song oeuvre.
In line with the title of the album, Marianne Beate Kielland sings the majority of the songs simply and rather conversationally. There is a natural and intimate atmosphere about the whole disc, very beautiful singing and a deceptive feeling of artlessness. The listener reacts to how mature Mozart was even when he was only twelve (tr. 11) or sixteen (tr. 6); enjoys the masterpieces from his later years and the vitality of Der Zauberer (tr. 15); savours the operatic Als Luise die Briefe …; marvels at the bold and dramatic Eine kleine deutsche Kantate, composed between the mild Ave verum corpus and the fairy tale opera Die Zauberflöte only months before Mozart’s death; and smiles at the youthful directness in Brüder, last uns lustig sein, which actually is the opening aria from his unfinished opera Zaide.
I have had reason to admire Marianne Beate Kielland on several occasions through the years, from a Bach cantata disc reviewed in March 2006. Now in her early forties and with more than 40 recordings behind her, she is firmly established as one of the leading mezzo-sopranos of her time. The present disc only confirms her greatness. There are a handful of legendary recordings of Mozart’s songs—Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s early LP with Walter Gieseking regarded by many as the greatest—but Schwarzkopf’s over-refinement, so superb in Hugo Wolf’s songs, can feel too laboured in Mozart. On the other hand, Marianne Beate Kielland, who follows the principle “less is more”, comes closer to the true Mozart than anyone else I have heard. With the support of Nils Anders Mortensen’s listened-in accompaniment and a spotless recording—not actually in her living room but a church in the north of Norway—this is now a first recommendation for a single CD with Mozart’s songs.
1. Das Traumbild K 530 [5:23]
2. Sehnsucht nach dem Frühlinge K 596 [2:10]
3. Das Lied der Trennung K 519 [7:09]
4. Die betrogne Welt K 474 [3:04]
5. An Chloë K 524 [2:29]
6. An die Freundschaft K 148 [3:09]
7. Als Luise die Briefe ihres ungetreuen Liebhabers verbrannte K 520 [1:42]
8. Abendempfindung K 523 [4:41]
9. Eine kleine deutsche Kantate K 619 [7:07]
10. Das Veilchen K 476 [2:18]
11. An die Freude K 53 [2:27]
12. Ich würd‘ auf meinem Pfad K 390 [2:17]
13. Brüder, lasst und lustig sein K 344 [1:11]
14. Die Zufriedenheit K 151 [2:56]
15. Der Zauberer K 472 [1:53]
16. An die Einsamkeit K 391 [3:31]
17. An die Bescheidenheit K 392 [2:29]
18. Geheime Liebe K 150 [2:18]
19. Im Frühlingsanfang K 597 [2:54]
20. Daphne, deine Rosenwangen K 52 [2:16]
21. Komm, liebe Zither K 351 [1:41]