Korngold: Lieder, Opp. 5, 18 & 38; Abschiedslieder

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Lieder, Opp. 5, 18 & 38; Abschiedslieder
PERFORMER: Dietrich Henschel (baritone) Helmut Deutsch (piano)
Everything about this disc is a delight: the music, the singing, the piano-playing. The repertoire – not the complete Korngold Lieder, but a substantial proportion and only partly overlapping with Anne Sofie von Otter’s collection on DG – ranges from a cycle of 12 Eichendorff songs Korngold composed at the age of 14 for his father’s birthday to five in English composed 40 years later and partly derived from his Hollywood scores. (Henschel’s English is perfect, incidentally, though its projection is a little more muffled than his native German elsewhere.) Sadly, Papa Korngold wasn’t wholly impressed with his gift and only three of those early songs were eventually published, as half of his Op. 9. The 12 appear here in their original sequence for the first time, the ‘lost’ nine transcribed from the manuscripts by the pianist Helmut Deutsch. Even the rejected songs are highly characteristic, full of the melodic and harmonic precociousness we have come to expect from the Viennese Wunderkind. With their mixture of charm and emotional depth they only just fall short of the greater originality and maturity of the later published songs, yet convey a sense of real accomplishment in Dietrich Henschel’s fine, intelligent performance. Indeed, his beautifully graded singing, subtly coloured in tone and expression, is outstanding throughout, whether in the dark tones of the Abschiedslieder or the lightheartedness of Korngold’s hilarious tribute to a goose-liver paté eaten at a friend’s dinner party, sung complete with echt Viennese accent. Helmut Deutsch accompanies with enormous sensitivity and breadth of colour.