Dienstag, 8. August 2017

Mitsuko Shirai & Hartmut Höll - Hölderlin Gesänge, Hölderlin Songs

This highly recommended album features recent recording on songs set to Hölderlin poetry by Eisler, Britten, Ullman, Komma, Reutter, Fröhlich, Cornelius, Jarnach, Hauer, Pfitzner and Fortner. An excellent album showing how the 19th-century Hölderlin inspired some of the great 20th-century composers.

This CD features settings of Friedrich Hölderlin poems by 11 different composers, as follows:

a. Viktor Ullmann: (1) "Abendphantasie" (Evening Fantasy), (2) "Der Frühling" (Spring)
b. Hanns Eisler: "Hölderlin-Fragmente"
c. Karl Michael Komma: 'Five Fragments of Friedrich Hölderlin'
d. Hermann Reutter: 'Three Songs after Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin'
e. Friedrich Theodor Fröhlich: "Rückkehr in die Heimat" (Return to the Homeland)
f. Peter Cornelius: "Sonnenuntergang" (Sunset)
g. Philipp Jarnach: "An eine Rose" (To a rose)
h. Josef Matthias Hauer: "Ehmals und jetzt" (Then and now)
i. Hans Pfitzner: "Abbitte" (Plea for forgiveness)
j. Wolfgang Fortner: "Geh unter, schöne Sonne" (Go down, then, lovely sun)
k. Benjamin Britten: "Hälfte des Lebens" (Half of life)

The lions' share of selections comes with selections (a) through (d), which take up over half the album's running time. Ullmann is the only composer represented with two stand-alone lieder, totaling over 10 minutes. Eisler, Komma and Reutter are represented with brief song cycles. With one exception, all of the music inhabits generally tonal or mildly chromatic harmonic territory, no surprise with Fröhlich, Cornelius, Pfitzner and Britten, in particular. Josef Matthias Hauer, who developed his own mild-version of twelve-tone composition, stretches harmonic bounds a bit more by comparison. The most "modern"-sounding of the works, to this ear, is the Komma cycle, sounding almost like an updated Alban Berg at times. Perhaps the biggest surprise, again to this listener, is the Hermann Reutter cycle, where Reutter uses a fundamentally tonal language, yet has just enough chromatic spice to make his tonality sound fresh.

In all of the cases, the composers never overwhelm the texts and make their music serve the text, rather than the other way around, as the quirky liner note by Alois Büchl accuses Richard Strauss of doing. Perhaps deliberately then, this album includes no settings of Hölderlin by Richard Strauss. It is very nice that several unfamiliar names are included, such as Philipp Jarnach, who is remembered, when remembered, for completing Busoni's opera "Doktor Faust", so it's good that Jarnach has a chance to show his own compositional work.

The husband-and-wife team of pianist Hartmut Höll and soprano Mitsuko Shirai give good performances throughout the album. There is a slightly diffident sound to the piano timbre at times. At one point, Shirai deviates ever so slightly from the printed text, in the Fröhlich setting, where she sings "....Jugend und Lieb und Glück" instead of the printed text ".....Jugend und Lieb und Lust". But that's a minor point.

None of these selections are claimed to be first recordings, but these works are hardly thick on the ground in terms of recordings. So if you have a taste for the adventurous and are interested in the poetry of Hölderlin, this album should be of interest to you, and is worth a listen.

Mitsuko Shirai & Hartmut Höll - Hölderlin Gesänge, Hölderlin Songs 
(192 kbps, cover art included)

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