Mahler/Korngold/Alma Mahler

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COMPOSERS: Mahler/Korngold/Alma Mahler
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Lieder
PERFORMER: Angelika Kirchschlager (soprano) Helmut Deutsch (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 68344
The young Austrian mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager has made a debut recital recording of rare enterprise. No mere showcase, this, but a stimulating and sensitively balanced programme of music from turn-of-the-century Vienna and, in the case of Korngold, beyond.

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Korngold had already emigrated to Hollywood when he wrote his Songs of the Clown, five of Feste’s ditties from Twelfth Night, here receiving their first ever recording. Kirchschlager’s command of English is as supple and instinctive as Korngold’s setting of Shakespeare, in sumptuous melodies, daring rhythmic twists and turns, and harmonic vacillations. Kirchschlager and her eloquent accompanist Helmut Deutsch also perform five earlier Korngold songs in which her light yet ardent mezzo exactly catches the typically Austrian sweetness and sentiment within his writing.

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Alma Mahler, much beleaguered wife of Gustav and, like Korngold, a pupil of Zemlinsky, is championed by Kirchschlager in five songs composed between 1900 and 1901: her spare settings of Rilke and Heine create a compelling sense of time suspended and uneasy calm. Her husband is represented by 14 songs from three volumes of Lieder und Gesänge, including nine from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Kirchschlager resists the temptation to over-characterise them, preferring instead to capture their simplicity and directness, while being sensitive to the shadow-side of their darkening world of partings and death. Hilary Finch