PERFORMER: Christa Mayer (mezzo-soprano), Konrad Jarnot (baritone), Carl-Heinz März (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: C 190 021 A
Although an exact contemporary of such figures as Bartók and Schoenberg, the German composer Hermann Zilcher (1881-1948) preferred to plough traditions that had been firmly established in the latter half of the 19th century. Thus the musical language of these expertly crafted songs, composed during the first 20 or so years of the 20th century, builds upon the solid foundations of Lieder-writing established by Schumann, Brahms and Wolf.
Had Zilcher contributed something of real individuality to the genre, I might have been more taken with this programme. As it stands, however, the sequence of mostly slow and languorous material is likely to try one’s patience, doubly so since Orfeo has failed to provide English translations of the texts. Nonetheless, singers looking for unusual alternatives to more familiar repertoire could do worse than to sample some of the more interesting items here, such as the expressive Goethe setting ‘An die Entfernte’ and the extended and dramatic ‘Echo’ which demonstrates a pleasing variety of texture in the piano part.
Of the two singers the Fischer-Dieskau pupil Konrad Jarnot sings this repertoire with considerable sensitivity, though the performances lack the missionary zeal so characteristic of his mentor. Christa Mayer is also a fine musician though her delivery is slightly marred by a hint of tremulous vibrato on some sustained notes. Erik Levi