Michael Nagy performs songs by Brahms and Glanert

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Glanert
LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms, Glanert
WORKS: Brahms-Glanert: Four Preludes and Serious Songs; Glanert: Weites Land (Distant Land); Brahms-Berio: Clarinet Sonata No. 1
PERFORMER: Michael Nagy (baritone), Kari Kriikku (clarinet); Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Olari Elts
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1263-2

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Fascinating things can happen when one creative mind homes in on another. Think of the Stravinsky-Pergolesi Pulcinella, or in our time the Elgar-Payne Symphony. Detlev Glanert’s version of Brahms’s Four Serious Songs is much more than an ‘arrangement’ for a suitably Brahmsian orchestra; Glanert has also added preludes and transitions, which morph from echt Brahms to modern and back again with Dr Who-like deftness. Somehow it manages to be teasing and stirring at the same time. In the process Glanert has bridged the abysm that divides the initial hearty assurance of the final song from the rapt ending of ‘O Tod, wie bitter bist du’ – for me the one flaw in Brahms’s original cycle. Glanert’s own Weites Land, a moody meditation on the motif that links ‘O Tod’ and Brahms’s Symphony No. 4, follows on so naturally that it could be performed very effectively as an epilogue to the expanded Four Serious Songs. It’s certainly played more than effectively here.

Luciano Berio’s version of Brahms’s First Clarinet Sonata is more problematic. It’s much less interventionist than Berio’s brilliant Rendering, based on the sketches for Schubert’s Tenth Symphony, but therein lies the problem. It doesn’t seem quite certain whether it’s a faithful arrangement or an imaginative ‘take’ on the Brahms – post-modern or just old-fashioned? The more-or-less straight scherzo works nicely, but Berio’s additions (minimal though they are) don’t add much. Kari Kriikku’s playing however is a delight.

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Stephen Johnson