Persian poems about the pleasures of wine, set to music by a Czech Jew.
The Persian poet Hafiz has also influenced many westerners. His ghazels (short poems mainly about love and wine) were the inspiration for Goethe’s ‘West-Östlicher Divan’. But many composers have also set his poems to music, including Karol Szymanowski and Victor Ullmann.
Ullmann composed his Liederbuch des Hafis in 1940. The wonderfully light-footed, humorous and lyrical songs are a feast for the ear and would make a very pleasant extension of the song repertoire. It is therefore impossible for me to understand why they are not sung more frequently. After all, Ullmann is one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century and he is no longer that unknown, is he?
In 1942 Ullmann was deported to Terezín (Theresienstadt). There he wrote many of his most important works, including his String Quartet No. 3 and the opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis. The songs Der Mensch und sein Tag op. 47 and the Drei Chinesische Lieder (Three Chinese Songs) also date from this period.
The Czech baritone Petr Matuszek has a very beautiful and warm timbre, he sings intelligibly and with much feeling. His repertoire is very broad: besides Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Zelenka (!) he also sings many contemporary compositions. Moreover, he has recorded almost all the songs of the ‘Theresienstadt composers’.
He is excellently accompanied by Aleš Kanka on the piano and in the song ‘Herbst’ (here incorrectly added to the cycle Der Mensch und sein Tag) he is assisted by a string trio.
Petr Matuszek baritone
Aleš Kanka piano, Pavel Eret violin, Libor Kanka viola, Vladan Kocí cello
Supraphon SU 3284-2 231