WORKS: Berlin Cabaret Songs, 1920-29
PERFORMER: Jody Karin Applebaum (soprano), Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HE 1033 (distr. +1 914 747 7590; www.heliconrecords.com)
Thanks to the recent efforts of artists such as Ute Lemper, the rich fund of cabaret songs composed during the Weimar Republic has secured much wider dissemination than could ever have been imagined some years ago. Perhaps the most accomplished exponent of the genre was Friedrich Hollaender, so it is entirely fitting that this new release should be exclusively focused on his output.
The programme features 16 songs, as well as two piano miniatures, which demonstrate both a brilliant assimilation of the different popular dance idioms of the day and a highly provocative sense of humour. More importantly the collection emphasises Hollaender’s capacity to write instantly memorable melodies – a gift that was to bring him an international reputation with his music for the young Marlene Dietrich in the 1930 film The Blue Angel.
As a trained singer of opera and oratorio, Jody Karin Applebaum has deliberately eschewed the declamatory performing styles normally associated with this repertoire. Her diction is crystal clear and in Marc-André Hamelin she has the benefit of an accompanist who brings a wealth of colour and imagination to Hollaender’s surprisingly taxing piano parts. What is missing, however, is a level of charisma and charm in her voice that can sustain one’s interest through an extended programme. This leads me to speculate that the recording might have gained more immediacy had it been taken at a live concert. Erik Levi