This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Paul Hindemith completed his song cycle Das Marienleben (The Life of Mary) in 1923 and, despite its reasonably favorable reception, considered revising it soon thereafter in line with the new directions his art had taken. A second and final version of the cycle was published in 1948. Here we are offered both editions side by side, a novel and illuminating approach to this music.
Das Marienleben is based on Rainer Maria Rilke's symbolic-impressionistic poetic cycle dealing with the life of the Virgin Mary in a style that is as dramatic as it is devotional. Hindemith follows the text of these 15 poems with faithful respect, but with him form and structure take precedence over poetic content. In his lengthy Preface to the 1948
edition, which is included in the notes, Hindemith is quite self-critical about the early version's alleged technical weaknesses and undue difficulties for the singers. Interestingly, Glenn Gould, Hindemith's longtime champion, decidedly preferred the earlier version—his comments are also quoted in Koch's generous notes. Comparing the two on this occasion, I find that 1923 is not all that forbidding in the right hands, while 1948— though more thoughtfully worked out in certain portions, and certainly more singer-friendly—is still, as they say, quite a piece of work.
The life of the Virgin Mary is told here in 15 episodes that may be divided into four groups. The first group deals with the personal experiences leading up to the miraculous "visitation." The second relates to the dramatic events surrounding the birth of Christ and the flight to Egypt. The third group relates to the suffering of Mary, culminating in the elegiac Pietà (Song No. 11), while the last three songs deal with the death of the Virgin. Here the vocalist is given a soaring, almost Straussian vocal line (Song No. 13).
Always a somewhat austere musical thinker, Hindemith created here an uncommon and stimulating cycle. The vocal line, even with some unconventional intervals, is certainly singable, while the piano, frequently moving at a dissonant counterpoint, seems to follow an independent path. I came away with an increased respect for the composer's craftsmanship and rigid discipline but wish that the experience had more deeply and emotionally involved me. My praise for the dedication of Judith Kellock and the keyboard virtuosity of Zita Carno is boundless, and the engineering captures them in an ideal balance. James H. North in Fanfare 20:6 had high praise for Ruth Ziesak's rendition (cpo 999 331-2), with which I am not familiar. But this is the only double-barreled approach to this thought-provoking cycle, and therefore it commands interest.
-- George Jellinek, FANFARE [3/1999] Read less
Works on This Recording
Das Marienleben, Op. 27 by Paul Hindemith
Judith Kellock (Soprano),
Zita Carno (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1923/1948; Germany
Date of Recording: 06/1995
Venue: Mastersound Studios, Astoria, NYC
Length: 72 Minutes 23 Secs.
Notes: Ver: 1948
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