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Korngold: Songs, Vol. 1 / Stallmeister, Schenker-primus, Simon

Korngold / Stallmeister / Schenker-primus / Simon
Release Date: 04/26/2011 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572027   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Britta StallmeisterKlaus SimonUwe Schenker-primus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A delightful programme comprising the lesser-known Korngold songs delivered to perfection.

This is the first volume of what is expected to be a complete collection of the songs of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the compositional wunderkind, the young prodigy whose talent impressed Mahler, D’Albert, Reger, Puccini, Saint-Saëns, and Richard Strauss and many other musical luminaries.

This disc includes examples from his early years up until the Shakespearean songs of his Hollywood years when his reputation as a serious composer plummeted (‘more corn than gold’ was the demoralising wisecrack). Reassessment came in his centenary year, 1997, with the then current re-emergence and regained respect for tonal
Read more music. There were also two biographies by Jessica Duchen and more importantly that by Brendan G. Carroll, President of the International Korngold Society ( The Last Prodigy – A Biography of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, 1997, Amadeus Press ISBN 1-57467-029-8.)

The baritone Uwe Schenker-Primus illuminates the early songs of Opp.5 and 9 composed when Korngold was only 13-14 years old. It seems incredible now that Erich’s father, the stern Viennese critic, should scorn them believing the songs to have no virtue and the texts by Eichendorff to be of little merit. In fact Korngold’s Op. 5 became his Sinfonietta for orchestra and it was some years before the songs were published. Accordingly, Korngold’s Op. 5 songs were cheekily given a subtitle ‘if God and Father so wish’. The songs show an astonishing grasp of the demands of the genre from one so young; they demonstrate an extraordinary musicality and sensitivity.

Schenker-Primus, who sings these early songs, has a most attractive timbre, his diction well-nigh perfect, so too is his control and sculpting of the contours of these songs coupled with a high expressive art. There is so much to admire here. There is the exuberant joyfulness and romantic charm of ‘Ständchen’; the delicate beauty of ‘Snowdrops’; the dark intensity of ‘Night Wanderer’ described by more than one commentator as Korngold’s ‘Erlkönig, the impressionistic piano part of ‘Winter Night’ giving a remarkably evocative picture of wintry desolation; and the magnificent melancholy of ‘From the Mountain’.

Equally delightful, if not more so, are the Op. 9 Songs Nos. 4 to 6 included here. The ‘Little Love letter’, inspired by one of Korngold’s young sweethearts, Mitzi Kolisch, has a lovely memorable melody and the despairing song of lost love that is ‘The Hero’s Grave at Pruth’ has an extraordinarily eerie atmosphere, while the rippling beauty of ‘Summer’ has another haunting melody.

Of the ‘Four Posthumous Songs’ ‘Vespers’ with its insistent tolling of bells in the piano part makes for a trenchant accompaniment culminating in their most mournful and almost dissonant chimes at the lines – “What is it about the bells today that makes me want to cry? The bells, which mean that my life is dead!” The concluding ‘The Genius’ forms an exuberant and cheeky finale.

Britta Stallmeister sings with enthusiasm and animation the later songs in this collection. There is the romantic bliss of ‘The World Has Gone to Sleep’ – “my love, I think of you ... I seek you in the stars;” from Op. 22. There is the gorgeous melody that is ‘Immortality’; the strongly pictorial piano part of ‘The Rushing Little Stream’, the endearing simplicity of ‘The Sleeping Child’ and the darkly dramatic ‘Stronger than Death’ mitigated only at the final lines “the power of love is stronger even than death” – all from Op. 27.

Stallmeister’s command of English is impressive in the nine Shakespearean songs. She relishes the opportunities to colour her voice to the five Clown songs from Twelfth Night. The cheekiness of ‘O mistress mine’ is delivered knowingly - film fans will remember Olivia de Havilland singing this tauntingly to Bette Davis as the ageing Queen in Elizabeth and Essex. She invests taunting irony in ‘For the rain, it raineth every day’. Of the Four Songs, ‘Desdemona’s Song’ features another of Korngold’s beautifully poignant melodies and is sung very affectingly here. By contrast, ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ and ‘When birds do sing’ are sunny, joyful and tuneful celebrations.

Klaus Simon provides consistently non-intrusive but illuminating accompaniments and Cornelius Bauer’s helpful notes complete a very attractive programme. The whisper is that the second CD in this series is even better.

A delightful programme comprising the lesser-known Korngold songs delivered to perfection.



-- Ian Lace, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Lieder (3), Op. 22 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Britta Stallmeister (Soprano), Klaus Simon (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928-1929 
2. Unvergänglichkeit, Op. 27 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Britta Stallmeister (Soprano), Klaus Simon (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933; Austria 
3. Songs of the Clown, Op. 29 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Britta Stallmeister (Soprano), Klaus Simon (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; USA 
4. Lieder (4), Op. 31 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Britta Stallmeister (Soprano), Klaus Simon (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
5. Lieder (12) "So Gott und Papa will" by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Uwe Schenker-primus (Baritone), Klaus Simon (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
6. Einfache Lieder (6), Op. 9: no 4, Liebesbriefchen by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Uwe Schenker-primus (Baritone), Klaus Simon (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913; Austria 
7. Einfache Lieder (6), Op. 9: no 5, Das Heldengrab am Pruth by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Uwe Schenker-primus (Baritone), Klaus Simon (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913; Austria 
8. Einfache Lieder (6), Op. 9: no 6, Sommer by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Uwe Schenker-primus (Baritone), Klaus Simon (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913; Austria 
9. Angedenken by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Uwe Schenker-primus (Baritone), Klaus Simon (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
10. Vesper by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Uwe Schenker-primus (Baritone), Klaus Simon (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; Austria 
11. Reiselied by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Uwe Schenker-primus (Baritone), Klaus Simon (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; Austria 
12. Die Geniale by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Uwe Schenker-primus (Baritone), Klaus Simon (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; Austria 

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