LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Scene
PERFORMER: Yvi Jänicke (mezzo-soprano), Birgitta Wollenweber (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 603 1112-2
Julius Weismann (1879-1950) is probably remembered these days for rather dubious reasons. In the mid-Thirties he gratefully accepted a commission from Alfred Rosenberg’s National-Socialist Cultural Community to compose incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream to replace the proscribed score by Mendelssohn, and then went on to write one of the most frequently performed comic operas of the Third Reich. As one might expect, he remained a conservative figure throughout his life, deeply rooted in the German tradition and eschewing the modernist tendencies favoured by many of his contemporaries.
Yet on the evidence of these songs, he was by no means a negligible figure. Admittedly, his melodic and harmonic style – heavily indebted to Schubert, Brahms and Wolf – is hardly original. But Weismann’s strengths lie elsewhere, particularly in his inventive and infinitely varied piano-writing, and in his ability to bring structural flexibility to the limitations of strophic verse. Consequently there is always something of interest to sustain the listener through each song, and in such examples as Tieck’s ‘Schlaflied’ Weismann’s beautifully sensitive setting bears worthy comparison with that of Brahms. Weismann’s credentials undoubtedly are immeasurably enhanced by the marvellously perceptive performances from Yvi Jänicke and Birgitta Wollenweber, whose total commitment makes one curious to hear more from this composer. Erik Levi