COMPOSERS: Backer Grøndahl & Winter-Hjelm,Irgens-Jensen,Kjerulf
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Waldabendlust
WORKS: Works by Kjerulf, Irgens-Jensen, Backer Grøndahl & Winter-Hjelm
PERFORMER: Isa Katharina Gericke (soprano)Sveinung Bjelland (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: PSC 1231
Even as late as the Forties, Grieg’s songs were more often sung in German translation than in their original Norwegian, and fellow composers like Kjerulf and Sinding turned to the language that would ensure their songs wider dissemination. This disc offers 11 songs by Grieg’s immediate precursor, Halfdan Kjerulf – mostly settings of Geibel – which possess a certain charm without having his compatriot’s strong personality. But the best thing here is a song cycle by Ludvig Irgens-Jensen (see above), who belonged to the same generation as Saeverud and whose folk-inspired musical language is refreshingly independent. Japanischer Frühling comprises nine songs adapted from the Japanese by Hans Bethge, whose Chinese poems Mahler had set in Das Lied von der Erde. Written in 1920, when he was in his mid-twenties, it was published as his Op. 2, though it is better-known in the orchestral transcription the composer made in 1957. This is a rewarding and imaginative cycle.
Four years younger than Grieg, Agathe Backer Grøndahl enjoyed international renown as a pianist (even Shaw wrote with admiration of her London visits) and as these songs show, she was a far from negligible composer. All these songs deserve more persuasive advocacy than they receive here. Isa Katharina Gericke is an intelligent artist but is a little wanting in variety of tone colour and vocal presence. Sveinung Bjelland is a supportive and sensitive accompanist, though, and they are both well served by the recording. Robert Layton