WORKS: Blumenlieder, Op. 500
PERFORMER: Dagmar Schellenberger (soprano); Shelley Katz (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 999 728-2
Best-known, especially in the German-speaking world, for his operettas and film music, Austrian composer Robert Stolz occasionally ventured outside these primarily commercial genres to write in a more serious vein. One notable example of this activity is the present song cycle written in 1927 and remarkably designated as his 500th opus! Stolz described the work as effecting a return to ‘charm and naivety’, and presenting a reaction against the ‘drudgery of modern composition’. But there’s more to the music than mere charm and naivety, since the imagery of the different flowers in the texts also offers opportunities to explore moods of poignancy and sharp irony.
It’s somewhat unusual for such a relatively unknown work to enjoy the benefit of two alternative concurrent recordings. But direct comparison between these two releases is complicated by the fact that CPO uses the original texts set by Bruno Hardt-Werden, while Dabringhaus und Grimm adopts Stolz’s revised version which places the songs in a different order and employs entirely new lyrics by Günter Loose. As far as the performances are concerned, I tend to prefer Dagmar Schellenberger’s wider tonal palette and the sensitive piano accompaniments of Shelley Katz to the efficient but less imaginative renditions on Dabringhaus und Grimm. Moreover, it should be noted that only CPO provides English translations of the songs. Erik Levi