PERFORMER: Yves Saelens (tenor)Jan Vermeulen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: KTC 1260
This is another example of a valuable rescue job: Robert Franz (1815-92) is one of many composers overestimated in his lifetime and consequently under-estimated now. In a life spanning a century of almost continuous tumult and unsettling change, Franz can perhaps be forgiven for wanting to create in his music ‘only peace and tranquillity’. More Volkslieder and Gesänge than Lieder proper, these Romantic songs, with their self-restricting emotional life, are recreated to a nicety by the easeful confiding of Yves Saelens’s tenor and the sweet 1851 Bösendorfer of Jan Vermeulen.
There is little probing here of the twilights of the poet Eichendorff; and, compared with Schumann’s well-known settings of Heine and Rückert, little stirring of the prosodic image or metre. But this is no put-down: Franz offers instead a simple yet skilful and winsome shadowing of a poem’s words and its shy questionings. Goethe would not, I’m sure, have been displeased with Franz’s disarming setting of his ‘Mailied’.
And there are moments of sheer beauty, too: in Lenau’s ‘Bitte’; in the only gently veiled anguish of Heine’s ‘Ja, du bist elend’; and in the high-lying, etheric sensibility of his ‘Wie des Mondes Abbild’.
A warning: there are no translations of the German song texts in the booklet. Hilary Finch