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Im Arm der Liebe – Love’s Embrace
Juliane Banse (soprano)
Münchner Rundfunkorchester / Sebastian Weigle
rec. 2015, Studio 1, Funkhaus des Bayerischen Rundfunk, Munich
No sung texts
BR KLASSIK 900322 [54:40]

Im Arm der Liebe – Love’s Embrace, sung by German soprano Juliane Banse, is an album of 19 orchestral lieder/songs from the pens of composers Marx, Braunfels, Korngold and Pfitzner. The work of each of these composers could be said to be affected by various degrees of neglect. Renowned for his film scores, the best-known composer of the group by far is Korngold. Thankfully his music, including lieder, is undergoing a resurgence of interest, especially in Germany, with a growing number of recordings of his works available. Pfitzner, Marx and Braunfels, on the other hand, are less well known. I have only rarely seen their lieder programmed.

The booklet essay explains how, prior to around 1830, lieder, most notably by the prolific Schubert who wrote over 600 songs, were almost exclusively performed in the home or salon with piano accompaniment. Through the next decades lieder with orchestral arrangements gradually established a place in the concert hall. Berlioz and Liszt, in particular, began to prepare orchestral arrangements of their own songs and also orchestrate Schubert’s lieder. Brahms and Webern also transcribed Schubert lieder. The golden age of orchestral lied really took hold and became the vogue with the emergence of Wolf, Mahler, Richard Strauss, Pfitzner, Reger, Berg, Schoenberg, Webern and Korngold. Some of them applied contemporary techniques to the traditional elements of the form. The lyrical texts by a influential poets such as Goethe, Dehmel, Heine, Eichendorff, Hesse, Rückert and Schiller have proved extremely popular with composers and have been repeatedly set to music.

The soloist here, Juliane Banse, a former pupil of the great opera and lieder singer Brigitte Fassbaender, has excelled in lieder herself. She has recorded several collections on CD, notably Schumann, Brahms and Berg. Clearly Banse is in her element with these lied selections. She gives warm, deeply committed performances. Her attractive voice cuts through the often-rich orchestral sound with ease. Impressive too is Banse’s high register with noticeably fine presence and clarity.
Described on the site as “Master of romantic impressionism”, Joseph Marx was born at Graz, Austria in 1882. I suspect that Marx is now a generally unfamiliar name, yet his music has prompted conductors Wilhelm Furtwängler to declare that “Joseph Marx is the leading force of Austrian music”, and Riccardo Chailly to ask “How could such a major composer fall into oblivion?” Marx wrote around 150 songs, of which some 20 are arranged as orchestral songs. Presented here are six works from his three-volume set of Lieder und Gesänge and Ständchen, and a single work from his two-volume collection of Italienisches Liederbuch—all from the period 1908/1914. In the short Und gestern hat er mir Rosen gebracht, a Thekla Lingen setting, soprano Banse produces a gloriously uplifting glow.

Up to 1933, Walter Braunfels (born in Frankfurt am Main) has a career that progressed extremely well, especially with the success of his opera Die Vögel (The Birds) premièred in 1920 at Munich. After his death in 1954, his output gradually fell into neglect. In recent years there has been a gradual growth of interest in his music, together with a number of CD releases. Like his close contemporary Richard Strauss, Braunfels was attracted to the genre of the orchestral lied. The 1914 set of Drei Chinesische Gesänge is a product of his early thirties. Here he uses texts from Die Chinesische Flöte taken from Hans Bethge’s anthology of ancient Chinese poetry. This is the same source that Mahler used for his Das Lied von der Erde. Dr. Eva Baur has written that the works reflect the composer’s “longing for faraway places”. Confident and consistent in voice, Juliane Banse clearly revels in these exotically perfumed settings.

A child prodigy born in Brünn, Austria-Hungary (what is now Brno in the Czech Republic), Korngold made his fame and fortune writing academy award winning film scores for the Hollywood studios during the heyday of the silver screen. Korngold’s music has been undergoing a resurgence and is becoming increasingly well represented on disc and in the concert/recital hall. Korngold’s cycle Sechs einfache Lieder (Six Simple Songs) was written in 1911/1916 during his teenage years. Despite its name, the lieder are anything but simple. The term probably refers to the form of the lieder, whose character could be said to focus around straightforwardness and lucidity of expression. According to the notes, Korngold orchestrated five of the set of six, and only four are included here. Korngold set a considerable number of Joseph von Eichendorff’s text. here I especially enjoy Schneeglöckchen (Snowdrops), the first piece in the cycle that Banse sings so beautifully and expressively.

Hans Pfitzner was actually born in Russia, although at the age of 2 he returned with his family to his father’s hometown of Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Pfitzner’s music is heard occasionally, especially with sporadic revivals of his magnum opus, the opera Palestrina—“musical legend” as he called it—or more likely extracts from it. Of all the claims made for the various merits of neglected composers writing in the late-Romantic idiom, Pfitzner’s music makes a strong case. A prolific composer of the lieder, Pfitzner is represented here by five, taken from his Op. 11 and Op. 26 sets. The first song, Venus mater, to a Richard Dehmel setting, is given a quite splendid rendition by Banse, with enchanting results.

The impressive Münchner Rundfunkorchester under Sebastian Weigle provide sterling support that feels fresh and spontaneous. The disc was recorded in Munich at Studio 1, Funkhaus des Bayerischen Rundfunk. The sound quality is first-class, warm and clear with presence. The lack of any texts and translations is extremely disappointing for an album of this type. Some slight measure of consolation is the helpful booklet essay From the home to the concert hall written by Wolfgang Stähr. In addition, the playing time of 54 minutes is meagre by current standards.

Those with an interest in late-Romantic orchestral lieder should not hesitate with Juliane Banse’s attractively sung and recorded album on BR-Klassik.

Michael Cookson
Joseph MARX (1882-1964)
Lieder und Gesänge
01. No. 2 Waldseligkeit (aus 3. Folge/Text: Richard Dehmel) [1:21]
02. No. 24 Und gestern hat er mir Rosen gebracht (aus 1. Folge/Text: Thekla Lingen) [2:18]
03. No. 17 Marienlied (aus 1. Folge/Text: Friedrich von Hardenberg) [2:35
04. No. 3 Der bescheidene Schäfer (aus 2. Folge / Textdichter: Christian Weisse) [2:07]
05. No. 9 Selige Nacht (aus 3. Folge/Text: Otto Erich Hartleben) [2:21]
Italienisches Liederbuch
06. No. 2 Ständchen (Text: Paul Heyse) [2:03]
Lieder und Gesänge
07. No. 22 Sommerlied (aus 1. Folge/Text: Emmanuel Geibel) [2:21]
Walter BRAUNFELS (1882-1954)
Drei Chinesische Gesänge, op. 19 [12:02]
Text: Hans Bethge · Edited: Axel Langmann
08. I. Die Einsame [3:37]
09. II. Ein Jüngling denkt an die Geliebte [3:44]
10. III. Die Geliebte des Kriegers [4:41]
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
aus Sechs einfache Lieder, op. 9
11. No. 1 Schneeglöckchen (Text: Joseph von Eichendorff) [3:40]
12. No. 3 Das Ständchen (Text: Joseph von Eichendorff) [2:05]
13. No. 4 Liebesbriefchen (Text: Elisabeth Honold) [2:39]
14. No. 6 Sommer (Text: Siegfried Trebitsch) [2:55]
Hans PFITZNER 1869-1949
15. Venus mater, op. 11/4 (Text: Richard Dehmel) [4:30]
16. Trauerstille, op. 26/4 (Text: Gottfried August Bürger) [3:40]
17. Gretel, op. 11/5 (Textdichter: Carl Busse) [2:15]
18. Untreu und Trost, op. 26/4 (Text: Anonymus) [2:46]
19. Nachts, op. 26/2 (Text: Joseph von Eichendorff) [3:02]



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