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Zemlinsky & Schulhoff Songs

Randi Stene mezzo soprano

Trondheim Symphony Orchestra/Muhai Tang

 

Zemlinsky: Six Songs to Poems by Maurice Maeterlinck Op 13

Schulhoff: Menschheit Op 28; Landschaften Op 26

 

Simax Classics PSC 1245 [June 2004; 65 mins - UK distributor New Note]


This is a CD of unusual interest, bringing together the orchestral songs of two early twentieth century composers whose works are under-represented in the catalogue, with a common thread of mysticism running through the poems of three neglected writers.

 

Zemlinsky only orchestrated one set of songs which were based on poems by Maurice Maeterlinck, a Belgian Nobel Laureate best remembered for his play Pelleas and Melisande. These six poems date from Maeterlinck's most prolific period, and typify his work, they are imbued with fatalism, with constant references to death. Zemlinsky's sumptuous shimmering orchestration raises them to a dreamlike plateau, and his outwardly simple folk-like melodies perfectly balance the inner darkness of the words.

 

The second half of the recital is in lighter mood. Erwin Schulfoff was an intellectual butterfly who experimented with a variety of musical idioms following the fashion of the day. He was associated with the Dadaist movement, and also influenced by jazz.

 

For these two short song cycles he also chose mystical poems. The group entitled Menschheit explores what it means to be human. They are lyrical, with a strong element of optimism, which is as much present in Daubler's poems as their setting.

 

Landschaften (Landscapes), to words by Kuhlemann are even more bucolic and bittersweet, calling to mind both Debussy's Images and Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde There is a spell binding nocturne at their heart and the cycle ends in a climax of yearning optimism.

 

Sadly the box contains neither texts nor translations, and these are not easy to source elsewhere. But it is hard to imagine better performances, with both Randi Stene and the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra perfectly catching the quicksilver quality of the vision. An outstanding recording.

Serena Fenwick