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Vienna: Fin de Siècle
Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)

Vier Lieder, Op.2 (1899) [10.59]
Anton WEBERN (1883-1945)
Fünf Lieder nach Gedichten von Richard Dehmel (1906-08) [12.28]
Alban BERG (1885-1935)
Sieben Frühe Lieder (1907) [15.17]
Alexander von ZEMLINSKY (1871-1942)
Aus Lieder, Op. 2, Op. 5 & Op. 7 (1895-99) [12.10]
Alma MAHLER (1879-1964)
Aus Fünf Lieder (1910) [5.50]
Aus Vier Lieder (1915) [3.37]
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903)
Goethe-Lieder (1888) [15.35]
Barbara Hannigan (soprano)
Reinbert de Leeuw (piano)
rec. 2017, Muziekcentrum van de Omroep, Hilversum, Netherlands
Sung German texts with English translations provided in booklet
ALPHA CLASSICS 393 [77.41]

If asked to nominate the most exceptional thirty-year period in classical music, mine would be divided either side of the turn of the twentieth-century. This period of great change in music comprises some of the greatest works of Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Richard Strauss, Debussy, Puccini and Elgar plus the increasing influence of the Second Viennese School, principally Schoenberg, Webern and Berg, while the Vienna-based Lieder composers Zemlinsky, Wolf and Alma Mahler all have interconnections with this group.

In 2015 at Musikfest Berlin I was fortunate to see soprano Barbara Hannigan perform compellingly with Emerson Quartet in a programme of Schoenberg, Webern and Berg string quartets with vocalist. Following her success with the 2018 GRAMMY Award winning album ‘Crazy Girl Crazy’ for Best Classical Solo Vocal category on Alpha, I’m delighted that Hannigan, with this new album, has turned her attention to composers who were shortly to become leading figures in the Second Viennese School.

Titled ‘Vienna: Fin de Siècle’, Hannigan together with pianist Reinbert de Leeuw have programmed a collection of Lieder from Schoenberg, Wolf, Webern, Zemlinsky, Alma Mahler and Berg, composers who in this époque were at the vanguard of the transformation of music centered around Vienna. As the new century emerged, tremors of political collapse loomed large in this capital of artistic modernity. These late-Romantic Lieder came at a momentous time, just prior to the move to abandon tonality. Leeuw explains that this period demonstrates “what composers could do with the infinite possibilities of finding double meaning in harmony and dissonance, dissolving together into such an incredibly rich language, full of possibility.” Hennigan and Leeuw include on this release Alma Mahler Lieder that weren’t originally on their touring recital programme from a decade or so ago. Leeuw considers that, although gifted as a composer, she cannot be compared to the others. However, she was a pupil of Zemlinsky and a significant figure in Viennese life – almost an embodiment of the period.

This album, from the time of the late-Romantic era, is satisfying filled with thirty-one Lieder, all written within a twenty-two-year period. Hannigan and Leeuw have chosen Four Lieder from Schoenberg, five from Webern, seven from Berg, seven from Zemlinsky, four from Alma Mahler and four by Hugo Wolf, all composers strongly drawn to the challenge of setting text to music, which they did prolifically. Most of the settings are by poets contemporary to fin de siècle Vienna, with the text of the renowned German poet Richard Dehmel used in almost a third of the Lieder sung here by Hannigan, including Webern’s Fünf Lieder settings of Dehmel texts. In fact, it was the influential Dehmel who inspired Schoenberg in 1899 to write his beautiful late-Romantic string sextet Verklärte Nacht.

Hannigan’s focused soprano has a seductively appealing tone which is bright and fluid. Her superb singing is outstanding in itself but, beyond this, her overall performances are both stylish and accurate without, thankfully, sounding studied. Almost living the text, Hannigan’s performances are beguiling and seem to communicate the essence of fin de siècle Vienna, a city at the forefront of advances in so many fields. In this sensuous music, I find it easy to visualise the decorative paintings of Gustav Klimt’s ‘golden phase’. My programme highlights include Schoenberg’s Waldsonne, where Hannigan so beautifully depicts the expression of love in the idealised pastoral imagery of Johannes Schlaf’s text. Standing out, too, is Webern’s Nächtliche Scheu, one of his Dahmel settings and another meaningful expression of love, an eerie nocturne cloaked in mystery. One certainly feels the closeness of Hannigan’s partnership with pianist Leeuw, who as well as being her accompanist is her mentor. In truth, I enjoyed all the settings which have clearly been judiciously chosen. This studio recording produced at Muziekcentrum van de Omroep, Hilversum is first class – crystal clear with gratifying presence and balance. The booklet essay, in the form of a conversation between Hannigan and Leeuw, is interesting and informative.

Containing beautiful late-Romantic Lieder, superbly performed by Hannigan and Leeuw, ‘Vienna: Fin de Siècle’ is a special album.

Michael Cookson

Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)
Vier Lieder, Op.2 (1899) [10.59]
1. Erwartung
2. Schenk Mir Deinen Goldenen Kamm (Jesus Bettelt)
3. Erhebung
4. Waldsonne
Anton WEBERN (1883-1945)
Fünf Lieder nach Gedichten von Richard Dehmel (1906-08) [12.28]
5. Ideale Landschaft
6. Am Ufer
7. Himmelfahrt
8. Nachtliche Scheu
9. Helle Nacht
Alban BERG (1885-1935)
Sieben frühe Lieder (1907) [15.17]
10. Nacht
11. Schilflied
12. Die Nachtigall
13. Traumgekrönt
14. Im Zimmer
15. Liebesode
16. Sommertage
Alexander von ZEMLINSKY (1871-1942)
Aus Lieder, Op. 2, Op. 5 & Op. 7 [12.10]
Aus Lieder, Op. 2 (1895-96)
17. Empfängniss
18. Frühlingstag
Op. 5 (1896-97)
19. Tiefe Sehnsucht
20. Schlaf Nur Ein
Op. 7 (1898-99)
21. Da Waren Zwei Kinder
22. Entbietung
23. Irmelin Rose
Alma MAHLER (1879-1964)
Aus Fünf Lieder (1910) [5.50]
24. Die Stille Stadt
25. Laue Sommernacht
26. Ich Wandle Unter Blumen
Aus Vier Lieder (1915) [3.37]
27. Licht In Der Nacht
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903)
Goethe-Lieder (1888) [15.35]
28. Mignon I
29. Mignon II
30. Mignon III
31. Kennst Du Das Land


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