Korngold: Symphony in F sharp; ‘Glück, das mir verlieb’ from Die tote Stadt; Four Einfache Lieder

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COMPOSERS: Korngold
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Symphony in F sharp; ‘Glück, das mir verlieb’ from Die tote Stadt; Four Einfache Lieder
PERFORMER: Barbara Hendricks (soprano); Philadelphia Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56169 2
Korngold’s Symphony is one of his most complex orchestral works. Written between 1949 and 1952, it contains all the emotional anguish of the composer’s exile from his native Vienna and his musical world of opera and concert pieces. The Symphony is his ultimate attempt at making his comeback, but the bitterness that he felt at his rejection by the postwar musical establishment and the sorrow and disillusionment of exile seep through every crevice of this jagged and tragic work. Its success depends on its gestures and the richness and inventiveness of its textures and orchestration. Welser-Möst captures all this with excellent understanding, a warm, resonant acoustic leaving enough clarity to explore all the music’s levels.

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The four Einfache Lieder from the set of six, Op. 9, are to the best of my knowledge, receiving their first, very welcome recording with orchestra here. They are tender, sensitive and beautifully orchestrated (the piano-rich ‘Sommer’ feels not unlike Canteloube.) Marietta’s famous ‘Lute Song’ from Die tote Stadt completes the recording. Welser-Möst seems more sympathetic than Hendricks, whose tone, while pure and lovely much of the time, somehow does not contain the warmth and generous flexibility that the music needs. Jessica Duchen