Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Songs of Forgotten Women

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Songs of Forgotten Women

Article excerpt

Songs of Forgotten Women. Julie Cross, mezzo soprano; Susan McDaniel, piano. (Beatriz Records; 58:40) Adela Maddison: "La bien-aimée," "Hiver," "L'armada," "Romance: Mon amour était mort," "Tears," "Retrospect," "If you would have it so." Giulia Recli: "Canta il viadante nella notte," "Notte di neve," "Calma di mare," "Canto di mare." Mathilde von Kralik: "Maiglöckchen," "Himmelschlüssel," "Veilchen," "Flieder," "Rosen." Bertha Frensel Wagener-Koopman: "Das sterbende Kind," "Die stille Wasserrose," "Sehnsucht," "Siehst du das Meer?" "Ein Stündchen lang," "Und hab so grosse Sehnsucht doch," "Frauenhände," "Ich will den Sturm."

Obscurity is not always undeserved, and one should always treat a collection of utterly forgotten repertoire with at least a bit of trepidation, in case the majority of songs contained therein prove to be not worth the time and trouble involved in their excavation. Fortunately, this collection of songs by forgotten women is very much worth the trouble, and one comes away with the most profound sense of gratitude that these songs have been brought to life. Unfortunately, this release tells us the life span of each of these four women composers, but not one iota of information about who they were, what they accomplished, and what factors contributed to their legacy being so utterly lost to us. For that matter, one also wishes to know at least a little something about how this project came about and how these two artists came to encounter these forgotten women's music.

These four composers are all firmly rooted in late Romanticism, but the flavors and colors range from the opulently ecstatic to the serenely impressionistic. Perhaps the most noteworthy of the four composers is Adela Maddison, whose birth date is listed on the disk as 1866, but elsewhere as 1863. Her determination to study music and nurture her gifts ultimately compelled her to leave both husband (a music publisher!) and children behind in England and to move to Paris, where she ultimately studied with Fauré and perhaps became his lover for a time. Maddison would later move to Germany and then back to England, in what would seem to have been a relentless and surely frustrating search for a place where her gifts would be fully appreciated and nurtured; it was a search that ended only with her death in 1929. The disk opens with four of her French songs, followed by three songs in English. They are musically restless pieces, by and large, and surge with passion.

Her songs stand in sharp contrast to the gentler songs of Italian composer Giulia Recli (1890-1970), who studied with one of her country's finest song composers, Ildebrando Pizzetti. The first three of her songs included on this disk call to mind some of the more impressionistic songs of Respighi, while the fourth is more joyous. Austrian composer Mathilde von Kralik (1857-1944) was part of a family that cherished all of the arts, and her first efforts as a composer appear apparently were when we set some of the texts written by her brother, a gifted poet. Among her teachers was the esteemed Anton Bruckner, who helped her develop skill as a choral composer. In addition to highly expressive songs, which in some ways call to mind Hugo Wolf, she might be best remembered for an opera she wrote titled Blume und Weissblume, which was popular in Austria for a time. This work garnered more regrettable attention when it was revealed that another composer had lifted more than fifty pages of her score verbatim and plopped it into the middle of his own new opera, Quo Vadis. …

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