Vocal and instrumental music by Korngold, Lehár, Fried, and Schoenberg

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CHANDOS has just released a CD (CHSA 5243) of rare vocal and instrumental music by early 20th century composers.

Korngold’s Four Songs of Farewell use texts by Christina Rossetti, Edith Ronsperger, and Ernst Lothar. Through the use of a late Romantic, somewhat dissonant idiom the cycle deals with love-lost, longing, regret and involuntary separation between loved ones. At all times text and music work together to express fatalism, sadness, and helplessness before the forces of fate, life, or even war, as is the case with Gefasster Abschied, the fourth song in the cycle.

Franz Lehár wrote the song Fieber in 1915 as the closing one of his cycle Aus eiserner Zeit (From an iron time), giving the cycle an orchestral setting. The listener should be prepared to encounter a Lehár that inhabits a musically and textually desolate landscape far removed from the carefree worlds of the Land of Smiles and The Merry Widow.

Depicting the dying hours of a soldier in hospital the song is more of an operatic scene than a Lied, with the expected vocal and dramatic challenges that go along with the genre. Stuart Skelton once more avails himself of his keen dramatic instincts and his flawless vocalism as he brings to vivid life the turmoil and imaginings of a man in physical and mental pain.

Stuart Skelton and the fine mezzo-soprano Christine Rice join voices in Oscar Fried’s setting of Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night). Even though it provides both singers with fine material with which to work Fried’s version setting of the Richard Dehmel text pales by comparison to the all-instrumental Schoenberg version, here given a perfect reading by Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

What makes this collection of early 20th century music so special is the inclusion of Korngold’s Four Songs of Farewell, the stand alone song Fieber, and the clarion-voiced Stuart Skelton gloriously singing perfectly-inflected and beautifully expressed German lyric poetry.

Rafael de Acha