Art Songs Oubliées, Part 3

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HERE, DEAR READERS, IS THE FINAL INSTALLMENT of neglected or forgotten art songs, featuring German and Italian repertoire. Some song cycles have been added to the list as well - some short, some longer. All of them deserve to be heard more often.

GERMAN LIEDER

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

"Auf dem Kirchhofe" (Detlev von Liliencron)

At the Churchyard. Composed 1886.

This is not unknown Brahms, but it is notable for the many harmonic and rhythmic changes during a fairly brief song-text painting of power and strength. The beautiful (and unexpected) Bach chorale texture in the major key that closes the song is a wonderful "Brahms moment." Ten years later Brahms composed Vier ernste Gesänge, to which this song bears some relation.

Erich Korngold (1897-1957)

"Sommer," op. 9, no. 6 (Siegfried Trebitsch)

Summer. Composed 1916.

"Das Heldengrab am Pruth," op. 9, no. 5 (Heinrich Kipper)

The hero's grave at Pruth. Composed 1916.

Both of these songs belong to Korngold's opus 9, Sechs einfache Lieder, early songs composed in his teens. All six songs contain the fingerprints of a young prodigy, influenced by Wolf, Strauss, Mahler, and Marx; they are deserving of more study and performances.

Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847)

"Warum sind denn du Rosen so blaß" (Heinrich Heine)

Why are the roses so faded. Composed 1837.

"Die Mainacht," op. 9, no. 6 (Ludwig Hölty)

May night. Composed 1838.

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Felix's sister, composed some 300 art songs distinguished by elegant lyricism, warmth of style, and great originality. She chose poetry of the best of the contemporary poets of the day, including Eichendorff, Heine, Rückert, Goethe, Hölty, Byron, and Müller. These are fine representative examples of her work. Brahms's "Die Mainacht" is more familiar, but Hensel's setting deserves to be heard also. Like Brahms, she sets the last vocal phrase in an arching, extended line. Brahms set four stanzas of Hölty's poem; Hensel set three.

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

"Nachtlied," op. 71, no. 6 (Joseph von Eichendorff)

Night song. Composed 1846.

Mendelssohn composed this song shortly before his death. It is an evening soliloquy of great beauty and dignity. The last stanza is exultantly dramatic, with expressive, expansive vocal lines.

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

"Der Zwerg," D771 (Matthäus von Collin)

The dwarf. Composed 1823.

This dramatic and chilling poem is the melodramatic story of a queen who is strangled by her former lover-a dwarf-far out at sea. He never again returns to land. Although this is one of Schubert's famous narrative songs-some liken it to "Erlkönig"-it needs to be heard more often. It is a dark song, and needs a singer with the dramatic talent to pull off the fearsome tale, which does not necessarily rule out female voices.

"Im Frühling" (Ernst Schulze)

In spring. Composed 1826.

Schulze's little poem is lightweight; Schubert creates a lovely lyric setting for it. The song is a set of variations-one of the few times Schubert used the form. The variations are found in the piano, but the voice has variants of some of the piano's material. All in all, a beautiful Schubert lied that fits neatly into the inner part of a Schubert group, but it is also an excellent opener.

Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896)

"Ein Veilchen" (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

A violet. Composed 1853.

Clara Schumann's setting of Goethe's little drama about a lovesick violet will not eclipse Mozart's, but it is nonetheless an enjoyable narration of the little flower's unrequited love.

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

"Belsatzar," op. 57 (Heinrich Heine)

Belsazar. Composed 1840.

This is arguably Schumann's finest ballad, based on the biblical story of King Belshazzar's feast as chronicled in one of Heine's finest verses. …