Fortner; Mahler; Martin Lieder

A voice in its prime that captures all the emotion of these powerful songs

Author: 
John Steane

Fortner; Mahler; Martin Lieder

  • (4) Gesänge
  • Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, 'Songs of a Wayfarer'
  • (6) Monologe aus Jedermann
  • (3) Gedichte von Michelangelo

Presuppose a listener who looks at the record shelves and says: ‘Give me music that speaks my language but extends its capacity; music that is like a companion who does not flatter or soothe, whose speech is not small-talk but matter for thought; music which never renounces beauty but knows that it does not come cheap’. Something like that. This record is for that listener.

The tone is set by the fine Hölderlin songs of Wolfgang Fortner, introduced on records by Fischer-Dieskau. Written in 1933, they have the energy of youth (the composer was only 26) and the sober economy of a mature master. Placed between these and Frank Martin’s Jedermann settings, Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen comforts the spirit which is perhaps a little daunted by these bleak evocations, and yet gains in seriousness and strength by their proximity. Wolf’s Michelangelo songs, with the profound memento mori of ‘Alles endet, was entstehet’ at their centre, leave us with no facile easement, yet they, too, proclaim (and most comprehensively) the beauty of great art in the words of the triple genius who was their poet and the music of the man who was then to write no more.

The performances entirely match the programme. The pianist, Burkhard Kehring, has the strong tone to bring out powerfully the stark element of protest or stern affirmation in the music; he can also modulate to a gentleness that imparts some hard-earned warmth. Roman Trekel, now in his 40th year, strikes me, on the evidence of this, as a great singer, nothing less. The voice is in its prime, firm, incisive, resonant and superbly controlled. He has the art of infusing word and musical line with the emotions which inform a mind well-stored with the fruits of precise, intelligent study. I hope that doesn’t sound cold; his singing certainly isn’t.

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