Two years younger than Humperdinck, Wilhelm Kienzl (1857-1941) is likewise remembered largely for one opera – in his case Der Evangelimann. He also composed some 200 songs; but even in his lifetime these failed to establish themselves in the main corpus of the genre. More’s the pity on the evidence of this collection, which happily avoids any duplication with a 1992 collection of Kienzl’s songs on Koch Schwann sung by Steven Kimbrough.
The collection ranges admirably over Kienzl’s richly Romantic output. The earliest set, the Op 16 Süsses Verzichten (‘Sweet Resignation’) to words by Wilhelm Cermak, depicts a girl’s acceptance of the loss of a lover. The four Japanese Songs, Op 47, present three light, impressionistic settings of ancient Japanese poems, rounded off with a more substantial modern poem. Other sets are looser collections, from which we hear just selected numbers, as with the five pieces (out of six) from Op 55, which demonstrate a more highly developed song-scene style. One of the most delightful items is the ‘Lullaby of Bilitis’, one of a set of three songs inspired by Emmy Destinn. Kienzl toured with her as accompanist, and she even appears here as author of the words of the melancholy ‘Deine Träume’ (‘Your Dreams’). The recital comes to a blissful close with the richly Straussian ‘Stille’ (‘Quiet’).
Schellenberger has a bright, expressive soprano that never seeks to impose itself unduly on the subject matter. The piano is placed a shade forward, but Kienzl’s luscious accompaniments are anyway a joy to hear.