Berg (Arr. de Leeuw), Zemlinsky, Szymanowski & L Boulanger

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COMPOSERS: Berg (Arr. de Leeuw),Szymanowski & L Boulanger,Zemlinsky
LABELS: Primavera
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Britta Stallmeister
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Britta Stallmeister (sop), Christian Schulte (piano); Holst Sinfonietta/Klaus Simon
CATALOGUE NO: AMP 5086-2
This is an unusually thoughtful recital, affording an evocative conspectus of the currents of European song in the first two decades of the 20th century. Zemlinsky’s Op. 7, only a few years earlier than Berg’s Seven Early Songs, testify to a native songwriting talent hardly less ardent. Britta Stallmeister is a highly sympathetic interpreter for both sets. If you want your Bergs in the grand manner, with the full orchestration, Jessye Norman will serve you well, but Stallmeister’s cooler, affectionate approach brings out the quieter aspects of their intense lyricism. And she makes a much stronger case for the Zemlinsky as a cycle than the rival DG recording, where the five songs are divided up between the four voices.

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Szymanowski’s chamber-orchestra set Slopiewnie, with its unexpected echoes of Les noces, marked his decisive turn towards a modern, hard-edged, folk-derived art: they are delicious little songs, deliciously performed. Lili Boulanger’s Clairières dans le ciel is, however, the triumph here: by turns ravishing and gravely ecstatic, it establishes clear links with the late song cycles of Fauré and repays repeated listening. In fact Stallmeister built the programme around the Boulanger, and she seems a virtually ideal interpreter for it. Christian Schulte is an imaginative accompanist here and in the Zemlinsky; in Berg and Szymanowski it’s pleasant to greet a chamber orchestra from Freiburg, the fortress of Adorno’s modern-music orthodoxy, that names itself after Gustav Holst and deliberately programmes non-standard repertoire. Calum MacDonald