In the 1920s old values were shaken. The Great War had just ended. Countries had become independent, or had just lost their independency. Powerful new influences like jazz, blues, and exotic folklore appeared. Boundaries between classical and popular music were fading.
Of all the composers from that period, Wilhelm Grosz was perhaps the most versatile. He was born in Vienna in 1894 into a wealthy Jewish family. In 1919 he graduated from the Viennese Music Academy, where he was taught by, amongst others, Franz Schreker. In 1920 he finished his musicological studies at the Vienna University.
Grosz composed songs, operas, operettas, ballet music and chamber music, and was a famous pianist as well. In 1928 he was appointed the artistic director of the Ultraphon record company in Berlin.
In 1929, commissioned by the prestigious Radio Breslau, he composed the song cycle Afrika Songs on lyrics by African-American poets.
Afrika Songs was premiered on 4 February 1930 and enthusiastically received. The cycle also became known as the Jugendstil Spirituals, which probably is the most fitting description for it. There are jazz and blues influences, but the songs were also quite heavily influenced by the music of Zemlinsky, Mahler and … Puccini (compare Tante Sues Geschichten with Ho una casa nell’ Honan from the second act of Turandot!).
When he Nazis came to power, Grosz returned to Vienna. In 1934 he was forced to flee again, this time to London. There his popular works grew more distinct from his serious ones. His name became forever attached to a series of world wide hits. The Isle of Capri, for example, was the big hit of 1934.
ALONG THE SANTA FE TRAIL
In 1938 Grosz left for Hollywood but didn’t get further then New York. He had a heart attack in 1939 and died, aged only 45. He composed the famous song for Along the Santa Fe Trail, a movie with Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland and Ronald Reagan in the leads. The song was not sung in the film and only used only instrumentally as background music.
AFRIKA SONGS AND MORE
After almost sixty years Grosz was rediscovered, although only briefly. It is hard to believe, but the Afrika Songs were not recorded until 1996! The Matrix Ensemble performed them for the firs time at the Proms in 1993. The CD also includes the song cycle Rondels, Bänkel und Balladen and the hits Isle of Capri, When Budapest Was Young and Red Sails in the Sunset, songs we all know but never knew who composed them.
Vera Lynn sings Red Sails in the Sunset in 1935
Mezzo Cynthia Clarey and baritone Jake Gardner are splendid in the Afrika Songs and Andrew Shore makes a party of Bänkel und Balladen. Nothing but praise for the Matrix Ensemble.
English translation: Remko Jas
With many thanks for Brendan Carroll
Ever since the truly brilliant and now legendary movie Amadeus shattered Mozart’s reputation (or, on the contrary, boosted it), nobody is holy anymore.
In Anand Tucker’s extremely bad – in contrast to the masterful Amadeus – Hilary and Jackie it was the turn of star cellist Jacqueline du Pré.
Trailer of the film:
It was all over with her image of a cute girl: the darling of so many fans turned out to be a nymphomaniac, who was also jealous of her sister and went to bed with her brother-in-law. The film is based on the book of du Pré’s sister and brother, so I’m sure it’s all true, but: what does it matter to a serious music lover? Will he now listen to Edward Elgar’s cello concerto in any other way? I certainly won’t.
Cellist Jacqueline Du Pre records Elgar’s Cello Concerto with conductor John Barbirolli at Kingsway Hall in London, 1965.
David Farrell/EMI Classics
Elgar and Jaqueline du Pré belong together, just like Chopin and Rubinstein or Vincent van Gogh and the sunflowers. Du Pré began to study the Elgar Concerto at the age of thirteen, under the inspired guidance of her teacher and ‘cello daddy’ Wiliam Pleeth, and in 1965 she made a recording of it, conducted by John Barbirolli. This performance was already declared legendary at the time of its appearance, and when in 1970 a live recording with her husband Daniel Barenboim came out, opinions were clearly divided.
Du Pré, Elgar and Barbirolli:
Du Pré, Elgar and Barenboim:
Even today it remains difficult to choose between the two. The recording with Barbirolli is almost perfect, but the one with Barenboim sparkles and twinkles more. It is clearly audible that two perfect soul mates are at work here. This recording was also used in ‘Hilary and Jackie’ and can be found, next to Pheloung’s music on the soundtrack from that movie (Sony 60394).
Du Pré and Barenboim performed a lot together, but made few studio recordings together. The plans were there but her illness struck and that was that. Luckily there are a lot of live recordings of their performances. Beethoven’s cello sonatas, for example. They were recorded during the Edinburgh Festival in 1970 (EMI 5733322).
In 1999 EMI collected all the recordings the BBC ever made of du Pré (now available as Warner 2435733775). Maréchal’s arrangements of the Falla from 1961 are a bit dubious, and her Couperin (1963) and Händel (1961) are a bit dated, but the joy that radiates from them compensates a lot, or perhaps everything.
Du Pré was a natural talent, her playing was inspired and characterised by great intensity, and the liberties she took are not disturbing, partly because of that. As Barenboim once said “she had a gift for making the listener feel that the music she played was being composed at that moment”.
Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
Korngold in 1929 © Franz Loewy
Zeventien jaar oud was Korngold toen hij in 1914 aan zijn tweede opera begon, waarvoor hij ook het libretto schreef. Het verhaal speelt zich af in de vijftiende eeuw in Venetië. Violanta wil wraak nemen op Alfonso, een prins die haar zuster heeft verleid. Helaas wordt zij zelf op hem verliefd en net als Gilda offert ze zichzelf voor hem op.
De muziek, met rijke orkestraties en mooie melodieën, doet zeer veristisch aan en de uitvoering onder leiding van Marek Janowski is schitterend. Het wordt tijd om de opera aan de vergetelheid te onttrekken. Wie wil de handtekeningenactie starten?
Walter Berry, Eva Marton, Siegfried Jerusalem;
Bavarian Radio Chorus&Munich Radio Orchestra/Marek Janowski
Deze opname is gemaakt tijdens het korte verblijf van de componist in zijn geliefde stad Wenen en is dus van een onschatbare waarde. Het bevat aria’s uit al zijn opera’s, met een grote selectie uit Die Kathrin.
Ze worden gezongen door onder andere Anton Dermota, Ilona Steingruber en Gundula Janowitz, en al is de klank niet geweldig, toch prefereer ik het boven veel modernere uitvoeringen. Het idee alleen al dat hij zelf voor het orkest staat! Ik hoop dat het nog ergens te koop is, anders biedt Spotify de oplossing.
From the operas of Erich Wolfgang Korngold
The Austrian State Radio Orchestra olv Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Cambria CD 1032
Korngold schreef zijn vioolconcert in 1945 voor Bronislaw Hubermann, maar het was uiteindelijk Heifetz die de première in 1947 verzorgde. Alle drie de delen van het concert waren al eerder gebruikt als filmmuziek, in respectievelijk Another Dawn, Anthony Adverse en The Prince and the Pauper.
Het is een zeer romantisch vioolconcert geworden, prachtig in zijn eenvoud en rijk aan gevoelens. Er bestaan veel opnamen van, ook van Heifetz, maar zelf vind ik de uitvoering van Gil Shaham beslist de mooiste. Het is sentimenteel en terughoudend tegelijk en overtuigend betrokken.
André Previn dirigeert congeniaal, zijn affiniteit met muziek van Korngold is verbazingwekkend.
Gil Shaham; London Symphony Orchestra/André Previn
EEN DVD OVER KORNGOLD
Dit is een leuke dvd voor de beginners. Het voegt niets nieuws toe, maar is aardig gemaakt en bevat, behalve filmfragmenten en interviews, ook de complete uitvoeringen van veel van zijn werken, inclusief het viool- en het celloconcert. Dat laatste gespeeld door Quirine Viersen:
Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The Adventures of a Wunderkind. A portrait and Concert
Arthausmuziek 100 362
Mocht u geïnteresseerd zijn geraakt, dan kan ik u het boek van Brendan G. Carroll, The Last Prodigy van harte aanbevelen.
En als u wat meer over Korngold in Nederland wilt weten dan kunt u niet om Een jongen van brutale zwier van Caspar Wintermans heen.
Die Tote Stadt discografie. Deel 1
Aanbeden, genegeerd, vergeten: over Erich Wolfgang Korngold en ‘Die Tote Stadt’
Wonderlijke productie van Das wunder der Heliane uit Berlijn
Das Wunder der Annemarie Kremers ‘Heliane’
TUSSEN TWEE WERELDEN
KORNGOLD: complete songs
Victoria de los Angeles was without a doubt one of the most beautiful lyrical sopranos of her generation. She made her debut in 1945 at the Liceu in Barcelona as the Gräfin in Le Nozze di Figaro. Her international breakthrough came when she sang Salud in La vida breve by Manuel de Falla in 1948 for the BBC, a role she first performed in a staged performance at the Holland Festival in 1953.
One year later she sang Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust in Paris and after that all the major stages in the world followed.
Her real name was Victoria Lopez Garcia. Why did she choose ‘de los Angeles’ as her stage name? It is not that important, but it fitted her like a glove. Not only did she look like a Spanish Madonna, but her voice was angelic too: gorgeous and of an innocent beauty. Something that made her less suitable for certain roles, such as Violetta. Not that she was bad, but she sounded very chaste.
And yet she was one of the best Manons (Massenet), also not exactly an example of a ‘decent’ woman:
Her interpretation of Carmen is also incredibly good. Not slutty and not too confident, but oh so attractive!
Her voice was not just lyrical, warm and delicate but also very aristocratic, so her Mimi and Cio Cio San were not only fragile and helpless but also got something royal and even Santuzza was enriched with a bit of nobility.
But the Los Angeles was more than just an opera diva. In addition to performing in operas, she frequently performed as a concert singer and was a very gifted song singer. It is said that at the beginning of her career, before performing in an opera, she insisted on giving a song recital first. In this way she could first introduce herself to the public as the real Victoria and not as an opera character.
For Spanish songs she has meant as much as Fischer-Dieskau for German songs or Peter Pears for English. She sang everything which was composed in her native country: starting with the medieval songs and the Sephardic romanceros and ending with zarzuelas and contemporary compositions.
Her repertoire was incredibly large. She sang Italian, Spanish, French and German songs and knew better than anyone how to make her own mark on everything she sang. Her Brahms and Mendelssohn are irresistible, and one cannot help falling in love with her ‘Ich Liebe Dich’ by Grieg.
Her loving, somewhat sweet timbre, her suppleness and her ability to colour words made her particularly suitable for the French repertoire. Her Debussy, her Ravel, her Delibes (just listen to ‘Les filles de Cadiz’!) are truly unrivalled.
Hopefully this album is still for sale.
Victoria de los Angeles
The very best of
Warner Classics 5758882 (2 CDs)
Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)