Lieder by German Opera Composers
For all but the most knowledgeable in Lieder this will be a real and fascinating voyage of discovery. Each of the composers represented is known, if at all, by one or two operas, but all wrote liberally as song composers. Naturally enough in such an eclectic selection there will be some pieces that one is pleased to have met once but will hardly hurry to hear again, but at least two of the composers represented, Kreutzer and Marschner, who begin and end this CD, deserve the attention of anyone interested in the history of the genre. Kreutzer’s setting of Die Post, written before Schubert’s, is worthy to stand beside it. Die Kapelle is even better, a funeral piece in the minor of much more than passing interest in its acute setting of an Uhland text, changes of key worthy of Schubert and intense repeats of the single word “Hirtenknabe”. With its gripping accompaniment and well-varied line, Nachtreise is almost as compelling. In complete contrast Entschluss is charming and relaxed in an unassuming way and Nahe des Geliebten, a Goetz setting, though not in this case the equal of Schubert’s version, has much to commend it.
The three songs by Nicolai are pleasing but slight. Goetz, who died all too young, was admired by Brahms and one can hear just why in the very Brahmsian Schliesse mir die Augen beide, a setting of an admirable poem by Ludwig Sturm. Goethe’s other Lieder here are not so remarkable. Humperdinck also proves something of a disappointment except in the Wagnerian Sonntagsruhe. The remainder do not evince sufficiently individual personality.
Marschner is quite another matter. Each song here is at least to be spoken of in the same breath as those by his contemporary, Loewe, whom he much resembles in style, and I now long to encounter some of his other 400 or more Lieder. Die sieben Freier is another of those Lorelei-inspired poems so beloved of the German romantics. This one deserves to stand alongside the best. Even better is the Gothic horror of both Die Rache, with its ostinato imitation of hoofbeats, and Die Monduhr, imbued throughout with a constantly varied motif in thirds. Perhaps these pieces aren’t so unexpected from the composer of Der Vampyr. Das Flammchen auf der Heide is quirkily scary, Der betrogene Teufel a nice essay in the ribald, which is delivered by Bar in an appropriately biting timbre. But then throughout he is back on his most convincing form, relishing every word and note and singing with restored freedom. Deutsch, who also contributes the booklet-notes, proves a worthy partner. The recording is forward and well-balanced.'