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"... vom küsslichen Mund ... - Songs of the Mozart Era"

Markus Schäfer, tenor; Christine Schornsheim, fortepiano

rec: Dec 27 - 29, 2009, Berlin, DeutschlandRadio (Studio Gärtnerstrasse)
Crystal - N 67 072 (© 2011) (60'58")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

August Leopold CRELLE (1780-1856): Sehnsucht; Johann Friedrich Hugo VON DALBERG (1760-1812): Würde der Frauen; Anton EBERL (1765-1807): Glückliche Fahrt; Nähe des Geliebten; Romanze (Der Fischer); Johann Neponuk HUMMEL (1778-1837): Meine Geliebte; Daniel KIELMANN (?-?): Gruppe aus dem Tartarus; Nikolaus VON KRUFFT (1779-1818): Der Liebende; Der Papagoy; Erster Verlust; Lied aus der Ferne; Mailied; Rastlose Liebe; Ignaz MOSCHELES (1794-1870): Frauenwürde; Franz Xaver MOZART (1791-1844): An Emma; Antonio SALIERI (1750-1825): Der Zufriedene; Johann Wenzel TOMASCHEK (1774-1850): Cidli; Die Ergebung; Lied (Wir gingen beide Hand in Hand); Molly's Werth

The German Klavierlied of the 19th century is an important part of the repertoire of many singers. Especially the songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf and some other composers are often performed and recorded. It is acknowledged that this genre didn't emerge in the early decades of the 19th century and has its roots in the classical era. However, most of that repertoire is hardly known and seldom performed. The exceptions are the songs by Mozart and the songs Haydn composed during his visits to England. The liner-notes of the present disc refer to the Berliner Liederschule of the 1770s and 80s - a typical product of the Enlightenment.

In fact, we have to go back further in history. At the end of the 17th century the opera aria had overshadowed the solo song. Some arias were published as songs, but these were too difficult for amateurs. In the early decades of the 18th century composers looked down on the very form of the solo song, according to the music critic Johann Adolf Scheibe. Georg Philipp Telemann was one of the first who tried to restore the interest in this genre. In 1741 he published his Vier und zwanzig, theils ernsthaften, theils scherzenden, Oden which was an attempt to show what songs should be like, after attempts by some others who were assessed rather negatively.

The next stage brings us in the era of the Empfindsamkeit, and one of the main contributors to the genre of the solo song was Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. He composed a large number of songs of various character, both secular and sacred. Some of the latter were also published in versions for choir. Many of these songs, aimed at the growing amateur market, were relatively simple. They were usually strophic, and the role of the keyboard was limited, often still reflecting the baroque practice of the basso continuo. In Bach's oeuvre a change towards a new idiom can be noticed. In some songs the keyboard part became more independent, and sometimes depicted the content of the text. Some of his songs could even be played without a vocal part, as so-called Handstücke.

This development continued in the last decades of the 18th and the early decades of the 19th century. The present disc presents a sequence of songs which documents the stylistic developments over a period of about 50 years. The subtitle - "Songs of the Mozart era" - has to be taken with a grain of salt. Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870) and August Leopold Crelle (1780-1856) can hardly be called contemporaries of Mozart; they rather belong to the era of Schubert. The same obviously goes for Mozart's son Franz Xaver.

One of the nice things of this disc is that the artists have selected songs which are virtually unknown, sometimes by rather obscure composers. The tracklist doesn't give any indication in this regard, but I suspect that many of them have been recorded here for the first time.

Nikolaus von Krufft is an example of a rather unknown composer who even has no entry in New Grove. In recent years some of his chamber music has been recorded and Christoph Prégardien and Andreas Staier recorded a number of his songs. Fortunately the six songs recorded here are not part of their programme. These are specimens of the early stages of the song, basically strophic, with a limited role of the keyboard. Der Papagoy is clearly inspired by Papageno's aria from Mozart's Zauberflöte. Hummel is mainly known for his piano works and some chamber music; he composed a small number of songs. Salieri also wrote few songs, in German, French and Italian. Anton Eberl was a great admirer of Mozart, and some of his works were published under Mozart's name. Only later in his career he moved away from the latter's style in favour of a more romantic idiom. The three songs here are still of the classical type, although Glückliche Fahrt begins with an introduction by the keyboard.

Tomaschek (or Tomášek) was a Bohemian composer and the leading figure in musical life in Prague in the first half of the 19th century. He was one of the representatives of the Mozart cult at that time in Prague. Through his many pupils he had much influence in Europe and his piano works and songs found a wide dissemination. In 1981 Kurt Widmer recorded a whole disc with songs which was reissued in 1997 (Ars Musici). Here we hear four songs which were not in his programme. These are preceded by keyboard introductions and there is a closer connection between the text and the keyboard part. This development goes on in the songs which follow in the programme and which show some features of the romantic German Lied.

Johann Friedrich Hugo Freiherr von Dalberg was an aristocrat and a piano virtuoso. He also wrote books on various subjects and acted as a canon and a privy counsellor. He composed piano music, chamber music and a considerable number of songs. August Leopold Crelle was a German mathematician and founded a mathematical journal. He has no entry in New Grove and no musical activities are mentioned in the article in Wikipedia. Sehnsucht shows a further step towards a greater independence of the keyboard part. The booklet doesn't give any information about Daniel Kielmann, and I couldn't find anything on the internet. Gruppe aus dem Tartarus, best known in the setting by Schubert, is through-composed and begins with a virtuosic keyboard introduction.

Markus Schäfer has the perfect voice for this repertoire. Some may need a little time to get used to its sharp edges; his voice isn't what one could call 'smooth'. But he is a master of delivery - every word is clearly audible, even without reading the lyrics in the booklet. He expresses the nuances in the texts with painstaking precision; no detail is lost. Some songs have a wide tessitura, but the top notes come off perfectly. Christine Schornsheim is a sensitive and brilliant accompanist who effectively explores the features of the fortepiano (copy after Walter, 1800) in the interest of expression.

This is an impressive disc which no lover of the Klavierlied would like to miss.

Johan van Veen (© 2014)

Relevant links:

Markus Schäfer
Christine Schornsheim

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