Christine Rice, Stuart Skelton, The BBC Symphony Orchestra, Edward Gardner – Verklärte Nacht (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:03:30 minutes | 1,05 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © Chandos
Hot on the heels of their acclaimed recording of Britten’s Peter Grimes, Stuart Skelton and Edward Gardner join forces with Christine Rice and the BBC Symphony Orchestra for this fascinating programme of early twentieth-century works. Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht needs no introduction, but far rarer is Oscar Fried’s contemporaneous setting of the same poem.
Composed in 1901 for soloists and orchestra, Fried’s version is a true setting of (as opposed to Schoenberg’s reflection on) the text by Richard Dehmel. Lehár wrote Fieber in 1915 as the closing part of his song cycle Aus eiserner Zeit – he then made the orchestral setting a year later. Korngold’s Lieder des Abschieds (“Songs of Farewell”) date from the early 1920s, whilst he was still in Vienna, and shortly after he had completed the opera Die tote Stadt. Setting poetry by Christina Rossetti, Edith Ronsperger, and Ernst Lothar, the cycle is a poignant reflection on the Great War.
An extraordinary programme, of rare intelligence and curiosity. While the heart of the programme remains Arnold Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht (1899, here in his 1917 version for strings), it is not Edward Gardner’s conducting, for all that it is very successful by dint of its transparence and assimilation of the composer’s later course, which attracts the listener’s attention here.
The British conductor introduces Schönberg’s work, with a musical setting of the same Dehmel poem, this time by Oskar Fried. Known for having made the first recording of a Mahler symphony in 1924, as well as a number of other essential milestones in the history of music, Oskar Fried was also a composer, but this side of him has probably been forgotten somewhat… His Verklärte Nacht (Op. 9) dates from 1901, and features two voices and a large orchestra. The treatment here may be surprising – one would at times think oneself to be dealing with England, or Northern Europe, rather than a post-Wagnerian environment. The splendid initial melodic curve, supported by a transparent orchestra, introduces a stage where the voices compete in lyricism (“Zwei Menschen gehn durch kahlen, kalten Hain”). Splendid work, even if the orchestra, in its later moments, may become a little heavier, making us almost long for the airy freshness of the beginning. Christine Rice and Stuart Skelton, sometimes recorded a little distantly, are magnificent, with sensitivity and a sense of heroism.
This Chandos recording then features a magnificent cycle of four melodies by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1920-1921), the Abschiedslieder. In the orchestral version, Korngold appears to be shouting out his love of Strauss’s Rosenkavalier. The third, “Mond, so gehst du wieder auf” takes up short, recognisable motifs from the opera’s finale (the part after the final trio), in an arrangement that accentuates its decadent spirit: but what beauty, what intelligence and what finesse in this orchestral treatment! The ever-so-slightly tired voice of Stuart Skelton undeniably contributes to the vivid emotion of this performance (far superior to the Capriccio version), even on the difficult Sterbelied. As for the Gefaßter Abschied, the fourth of the Lieder, it deploys a most engrossing orchestration, which perfectly maintains the dreamlike character of the previous Lied, along with a definitive sense of resignation.
Despite all the beauties that dot this Chandos album, the jewel in the crown remains its beginning, Fieber by Léhar, a short and extraordinarily innovative piece for voice and orchestra, in fact taken from a broader cycle by Léhar, Aus eiserner Zeit. This is the most contrasting work in the orchestra, with timbres, textures, and constantly renewed patterns. And the thing that makes it so great? Edward Gardner does not remotely acknowledge the work’s Wagnerian influences, and Skelton’s timbre is not that of a Heldentenor. In 1915, we really moved into another world, despite the memory of Berlioz remaining centre-stage… An album not to be missed under any circumstances. – Pierre-Yves Lascar
01. Aus Eiserner Zeit: No. 5, Fieber (Version for Voice & Orchestra)
02. Verklärte Nacht, Op. 9
03. Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4 (Version for String Orchestra): Grave – Poco più mosso
04. Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4 (Version for String Orchestra): Moderato – Calando
05. Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4 (Version for String Orchestra): A tempo – Poco più mosso
06. Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4 (Version for String Orchestra): Poco allegro – Pesante – Grave
07. Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4 (Version for String Orchestra): Pesante – Grave
08. Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4 (Version for String Orchestra): Adagio – Meno mosso – Più mosso moderato
09. Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4 (Version for String Orchestra): Poco adagio – Calando
10. Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4 (Version for String Orchestra): Adagio molto tranquillo – Largo – Calando
11. Abschiedslieder, Op. 14 (Version for Voice & Orchestra): No. 1, Sterbelied
12. Abschiedslieder, Op. 14 (Version for Voice & Orchestra): No. 2, Dies eine kann mein Sehnen nimmer fassen
13. Abschiedslieder, Op. 14 (Version for Voice & Orchestra): No. 3, Mond, so gehst du wieder auf
14. Abschiedslieder, Op. 14 (Version for Voice & Orchestra): No. 4, Gefaßter Abschied