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Nature’s Solace
Stephan Loges (bass-baritone)
Iain Burnside (piano)
rec. 2013/17, All Saints Church, East Finchley, London
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD554 [53:25]

On this interesting disc two of the greatest German Lieder composers of the 19th century are juxtaposed with a handful songs by Yrjö Kilpinen, Finnish by birth but held in high esteem in Germany during the 1930s and reputed to have composed around 800 songs, a great deal more than Schubert. Many of them are still unpublished and his reputation has waned a lot after the Second World War, not because of any deficiencies in his music but due to his openly positive attitude to the Nazis. Attempts have been made to find out, through his personal documents, how politically involved he was, whether he was just an opportunist or, as his daughter stated, a complete political idiot. Anyway, all the attempts that have been made to get access to his papers have been met with hostility from his family, and this in itself may of course be a sign that there is something to hide. I have no reason to delve into these circumstances further but want readers to know that Kilpinen still, sixty years after his demise, is a controversial person. Examining which poets he set – he was fluent in Finnish, Swedish and German – doesn’t give a clue either. He set Nazis as well as left-wings, but many poets with no political profile at all and also, as in the five songs included here, Hermann Hesse, whose works were banned by the Nazis by the end of the 1930s. What about his status today in live recitals and on CD? Though an avid visitor to song recitals for many years I can’t remember ever hearing a single song by Kilpinen. Browsing the CD catalogues gives middling results. There are recordings with Jorma Hynninen and Kim Borg and a couple of others, including a quite recent disc on Nova Records, probably only available in Finland, with 25 songs. It was given a very positive review in Hufvudstadsbladet. Add to this the legendary recordings with Gerhard Hüsch from 1935, 19 songs with Kilpinen’s wife at the piano, and anyone curious about Kilpinen can acquire a good helping of his output. A few years ago I also reviewed a disc with soprano Sophia Brommer singing Schumann, Schoeck, Richard Strauss and Kilpinen – by the latter the complete Liederfolge, Op. 97, from which Stephan Loges sings 2 of the 7 songs on the present disc.

After this preamble it’s time to turn to Loges, a singer who has made his mark in opera as well as songs. The set of the complete songs by Mozart, which I reviewed more than ten years ago, where he shared the space with soprano Sophie Kartenhäuser, was a great success, and here with some heavier stuff, he is utterly reliable. Kilpinen’s songs are not that easy to digest at first, there is a barrenness, sometimes a baldness that can be compared to Finnish nature. You need to listen several times to make them open up – but it’s worth the effort. Loges approaches the songs with seriousness, almost sternness but the outcome is very rewarding. Sophia Brommer’s lighter voice and glittering tone may be more directly inviting but Loges’ deep involvement pays dividends. It is good to have both approaches available. I would like him to explore Kilpinen’s oeuvre further. There are reportedly many gems there, even though not everything may be gold.

Schumann’s output of Lieder is of course well-known but there are byways also there. The Kerner-Lieder – or 12 Gedichte Op. 35 as they are formally titled – are in no way forgotten, but in comparison with Dichterliebe, the two Liederkreise and Frauenliebe und –Leben they are less frequently heard. Stephan Loges mentions in his booklet notes that his introduction to these songs was Thomas Hampson’s recording with Geoffrey Parsons. They were recorded back in 1989, when Hampson was at his freshest, and I admired them greatly when I reviewed them in 2006. Loges has an approach of his own, more overtly dramatic and his voice is darker, which emphasises the difference. More recently I reviewed an all-Schumann 5-CD box with Peter Schreier, recorded in the early 1970s, and he almost overtrumped Hampson’s reading – but only almost. I can live with all three.

Johannes Brahms composed songs all his life. The earliest published songs are from 1853 when he was just 20, the last were Vier ernste Gesänge Op. 121 from 1896, the year before his demise. The five songs Op. 94 were from an uncommonly prolific period in the mid-1880s, when he within a couple of years produced close to 40 songs – then there was a gap of almost ten years to the Vier ernste. Of these five Sapphische Ode is the best-known, which doesn’t diminish the value of the other four. But the idea to present all songs from a specific opus group is interesting and illuminating. For most recitals, whether of all-Brahms programmes or mixed programmes with a section of Brahms, singers usually picks songs from various opus groups. Stephan Loges’ darkish timbre and serious approach is extremely well suited to Brahms, and just as with Kilpinen, I wish he would explore his late songs further.

Iain Burnside is as usual a flexible accompanist and Stephan Loges, who has already an impressive catalogue of recordings behind him, adds a further gem to his CV; his wife Natasha is worth an extra laurel for her insightful liner notes.

It is my hope that this somewhat understated programme will reach enough buyers to encourage Signum to give Loges and Burnside further opportunities to investigate the German Lied repertoire.

Göran Forsling
 
Contents
Robert SCHUMANN (1810 – 1856)
12 Gedichte, Op. 35:
1. Lust der Sturmnacht [1:36]
2. Stirb, Lieb‘ und Freud‘ [5:54]
3. Wanderlied [3:09]
4. Erstes Grün [2:15]
5. Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend [2:06]
6. Auf das Trinkglas eines verstorbenen Freundes [3:43]
7. Wanderung [1:22]
8. Stille Liebe [3:11]
9. Frage [1:17]
10. Stille Tränen [3:21]
11. Wer macht dich so krank? [2:07]
12. Alte Laute [2:27]
Yrjö KILPINEN (1892 – 1959)
from Liederfolge, Op. 97:
13. No. 4: Ich fragte dich [1:37]
14. No. 5: Allein [1:07]
from Hochgebirgswinter, Op. 99:
15. No. 4: Schlittenfahrt [1:18]
from Herbst, Op. 98:
16. No. 7: Die Kindheit [2:39]
17. No. 8: Vergänglichkeit [3:26]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833 – 1897)
5 Lieder, Op. 94:
18. Mit vierzig Jahren ist der Berg erstiegen [3:29]
19. Steig auf, geliebter Schatten [2:09]
20. Mein Herz ist schwer [2:05]
21. Sapphische Ode [2:38]
22. Kein Haus, kein Heimat [0:38]



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