Blacher: Lieder; Solo Violin Sonata; Fragment for String Quartet

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COMPOSERS: Blacher
LABELS: Orfeo Zeitgenössisches Lied
WORKS: Lieder; Solo Violin Sonata; Fragment for String Quartet
PERFORMER: Stella Doufexis (mezzo-soprano), Yaron Windmüller (baritone), Christopher Lincoln (tenor), Kolja Blacher (violin), Axel Bauni (piano); Petersen Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: C 191 031 A
Judging by the limited number of works that appear on this disc, one might justifiably argue that Boris Blacher was not particularly interested in writing Lieder. This view, however, is somewhat misleading, given the particular care with which the composer selected his texts, and that his choice of material was invariably bound up with the unusual circumstances of his life. In this respect, the Three Psalms are especially poignant, their desperate appeals to God for protection against all evil remaining emblematic of Blacher’s difficult position during the latter stages of the Third Reich when his music was proscribed by the regime.

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Elsewhere Blacher effects a more objective and almost mechanistic pose in the pithy Aprèslude and the early Fünf Sprüche Omars des Zeltmachers. He takes a lighter approach in the Friedrich Wolf settings with their frequent allusions to dance music, though a later attempt to recapture such exuberance falls a little flat in Ungereimtes – a surprisingly Mussorgskian sequence of children’s rhymes. Most affecting of all, perhaps, is the Francesca da Rimini fragment where soprano and violin weave a magical and intimate dialogue.

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Performances and recording, featuring a stellar group of singers and instrumentalists, are unfailingly excellent, not least from the pianist Axel Bauni who invests Blacher’s texturally sparse accompaniments with considerable rhythmic verve. An interesting addition to Orfeo’s indispensable contemporary Lieder edition, appropriately released to coincide with the centenary of the composer’s birth. Erik Levi