Mozart to Weill – Annette Celine & Felicia Blumental – Vol. 4 – CB4837
£9.99 – £15.99
The present disc “Mozart to Weill” is a highly personal survey of the vast and varied field of German song. In German-speaking lands the composition of works for voice and piano is a time- honoured tradition, and there are few German or Austrian composers who have not left examples of this genre. The diversity of the genre is underlined by the varied social settings in which the composers intended their music to be performed – the songs of Mozart and Mendelssohn are most suited to performance in the intimacy of the home, those of Strauss, whether with piano or orchestral accompaniment, require the concert hall, and those of Weill, for example, were intended for the cabaret.
Mozart (1756-1791) wrote Sehnsucht nach dem Friihlinge to words by Overbeck in the year of his death. This song introduces us to a theme which was to preoccupy both Romantic poets and composers, namely spring, which is here seen through a child’s eyes as a pleasant time for the gathering of flowers and other innocent pursuits. The music is simplicity itself, being a simple strophic setting of the poem with the piano doubling the vocal line.
The songs of Mendelssohn (1809- 1847) take us further into the Romantic world where nature is both mirror of and solace for human heart. The piano assumes a more prominent role in establishing the atmosphere of the song. In Der Mond the singer seeks to draw comfort for her troubled soul from the calm of a moonlit night, against the gently murmuring piano part. In Suleika the singer apostrophises the west wind to carry her ardent greetings to her distant lover. In yet more passionate vein is Romanze, a setting of a German translation of an anonymous Spanish text. The vocal line is here unusually florid and melismatic. Both Das erste Veilchen and Frühlingslied are further testaments to the Romantic attachment to springtime. The former hovers between major and minor tonalities in Schubertian fashion, and the latter is a joyous and sparkling celebration of the season. Die Liebende schreibt takes the form of a monologue in which a woman pours forth her passion to her lover in a letter. Mendelssohn’s more than 100 songs breathe the atmosphere of the Victorian salon. He was a frequent visitor to Britain and his songs, like his Lieder ohne Worte for piano solo, were firm favourites in middle-class households everywhere, and were even appreciated by Queen Victoria and her consort, the German-born Prince Albert, themselves.
If Mendelssohn’s songs epitomise early Romanticism, then those of Strauss (1864-1949), numbering over 200, surely represent one of the high- watermarks of German Romanticism. Strauss’s love of the soprano voice is borne out by the many stellar roles he created for the singer Maria Jeritza. Strauss’s famously long, broad phrases can be heard in Morgen, which is in effect a love duet wherein singer and pianist weave melodic lines around one another in quiet ecstasy. In Zueignung, a great paean to love, the soaring vocal
line is underpinned by an almost orchestrally rich piano part.. Cäcilie is filled with a youthful ardour, many phrases beginning with an upward- rushing triplet figure. Ständchen is altogether more playful, and tells of the surreptitious meeting of two lovers when all have gone to their nightly rest. A glittering piano part adds to the sense of excitement. Night-time also forms the backdrop to the meeting of two lovers in Die Nacht, though here the atmosphere is one of tranquillity. Allerseelen closes the group of Strauss songs on a nostalgic note. It paints a touching picture of an elderly couple, still very much in love, who look back wistfully to their youth “wie einst im Mai” (as once in May).
Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871- 1942) is today a somewhat forgotten figure, and yet in his youth he received the encouragement of no lesser figures than Brahms and Wagner. His music is essentially expressionist, and Zemlinsky never became an exponent of the twelve- tone method, as did his illustrious pupil Schönberg. The two songs included here are representative of Zemlinsky’s musical language. Gib ein Lied mir wieder is sensual and decadent, and the tonality is ambiguous. The chromaticism is extreme, as it is in Elend, a setting of a Langston Hughes poem.
It may come as a surprise to some to learn that the august dodecaphonic polemicist Arnold Schönberg joined the company of the Überbrettl cabaret of Ernst von Wolzogen, whose attention had been caught by just such songs as those recorded here. Gigerlette is a delightful setting of a flirtatious poem extolling the charms of Gigerlette, whom “even a monk must admire”. The ironic Der genügsame Liebhaber takes the form of a man’s declaration of the charms of his lover, and his satisfaction with his own bald pate! Mahnung is an exhortation to a young girl to find herself a good husband, and not waste her “Rosenzeit”（time of roses) in pursuit of a “Schmetterling’ (butterfly). It is cast in the form of a slightly tipsy- sounding waltz.
The songs of Kurt Weill (1900- 1950) recorded here are in three languages which reflect the itinerant course of his life. He was born in Germany, fled to France in 1933 with the rise of Nazism, eventually settling in the United States. Weill, like Strauss, had a vocal muse, Lotte Lenya, whom he married. His songs often have politically charged texts, many supplied by his artistic collaborator Bertold Brecht. Youkali, written during Weill’s French sojourn, takes the form of a melancholy tango, Youkali being the name of a never- never land where, according to the text, all worries are left behind, all vows are kept, and where feelings of love are always reciprocated. Nannas Lied tells of a poor peasant girl who resorted to prostitution, the futility and emptiness of her life are summed up in the refrain “Wo ist der Schnee vom vergangenen Jahr?”（Where is the snow of yesteryear?). Je ne t’aime pas, another of Weill’s Parisian songs, tells of a man who seeks to convince himself that he no longer loves the woman who has rejected him. Buddy on the Nightshift was written for the entertainment and encouragement of American wartime factory workers. On this disc the Weill songs are framed by two solo piano renditions of the instrumental dance numbers Scène au Dancing and Tango-Ballade. Notes © Robert Markham.
Felicja Blumental (pianist) was born in Warsaw, where she studied at the National Conservatory with Karol Szymanowski, Jozef Goldberg and Drzewiecki. She began her international career just before the Second World War, but in 1942 was obliged to emigrate to South America. She settled in Brazil and made a successful American début at Rio de Janeiro. Other successes in Buenos Aires and Montevideo led to a successful concert career in the United States.
Villa-Lobos was so impressed with her playing of his Bachianas Brasileiras No.3 in 1954, that he composed his Fifth Piano
Concerto for her, which she first performed in the Festival Hall, London, in 1955, and went on to perform under the composer’s baton with the leading orchestras of Europe.
Witold Lutoslawski orchestrated his Variations on a Theme of Paganini specifically for her, and when Krzysztof Penderecki was commissioned to create a new work to mark the 25th anniversary of the Eastman School of Music (Rochester, New York), he wrote the Partita for Harpsichord and Orchestra and dedicated it to Miss Blumental. The work was played worldwide by Miss Blumental, with the composer conducting some 35 times.
Felicja Blumental appeared with all of the leading European orchestras; and whilst in London was soloist with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Miss Blumental is well-known for her recordings of sixty piano concerti, many of which are first recordings of forgotten masterpieces. She has also recorded many Mozart concerti with the Mozarteum, Salzburg; and five Beethdven concerti with Robert Wagner conducting the Austrian Symphony; as well as many concerti of the well-known romantic repertory.
Her recordings of Portuguese Sonatas and Toccatas of pupils of Domenico Scarlatti were awarded the Grand Prix in Tokyo in 1977.
Annette Celine – soprano The Brazilian soprano Annette Celine began her musical studies with her mother, Felicja Blumental. She studied voice in Milan with Mercedes Lloport and Elvira de Hidalgo.
She made her début at the Teatro Reggio di Parma in a programme of Mozart concert arias. Her appearances have included the Barcelona, Taormina and Camden (London) Festivals, the Stanford University Mozart Festival and the international Festival de Música, Torroella de Montgri, Spain. Annette Celine has been soloist with Belgian Radio in Haydn’ s Nelson Mass and Bruckner’s Te Deum.
In France she has sung in the Mozart and Fauré Requiems, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the Verdi Requiem under conductor Pierre Dervaux. She recorded Verdit Luisa Miller for Decca with Luciano Pavarotti and Montserrat Caballé, and has also recorded various song recitals with her mother.