KORNGOLD:   Lieder "op. 5 So Gott und Papa will.Einfache Lieder, Op. 9.   Lieder des Abschieds, Op. 14.  3 Lieder, Op. 18.  5 Lieder, Op. 38.  Unverg”nglichkeit, Op. 27.  3 Lieder, Op. 22.  Reiselied.  Vesper.  Die Geniale.  Nachts.  Sonett für Wien.  Die Gansleber im Hause Duschnitz.
Dietrich Henschel, baritone; Helmut Deutsch, piano
HARMONIA HUMDI HMC 901780 (F) (DDD) TT:  75:45
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KORNGOLD:  Tomorrow, Op. 33.  Einfache Lieder, Op. 9. Prayer, Op. 32.  Abschiedslieder, Op. 14.  Much Ado About Nothing, Op. 11.
Gigi Mitchell-Velasco, mezzo-soprano; Stephen Gould, tenor; Jochem Hochstenbach, piano; Ladies of The Mozart Choir, Linz; Bruckner Orchestra Linz/Caspar Richter, cond.
ASV DCA 1131 (F) (DDD) TT:  66:09
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Two fine, if quite different, collections of lieder of Erich Wolfgang Korngold.  This incredible prodigy wrote his first song in 1905 when only seven years old and continued to write lieder through most of his career - along with his other major works:  the operas Die Tote Stadt and Das Wunder der Heliane, Sinfonietta for Large Orchestra, Symphony in F#,  the Piano Concerto in C# written for Paul Wittgenstein and the Violin Concerto in D written for Jascha Heifetz. And of course there is the film music for which Korngold is most famous including scores for The Sea Hawk, Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Kings Row and Deception (for more on this see FEATURE).

Harmonia Mundi's CD offers a wide range of lieder, both early and late, including some premiere recordings performed from manuscript courtesy of  the Korngold Estate, one a delightful  waltz-song Die Gansleber im Hause Duschnitz praising a "spectacular" goose-liver pate the composer had enjoyed at a dinner party.  Accompanist Helmut Deutsch states original manuscripts of the Op. 5 songs were barely decipherable and that some of the final result is "informed speculation."  Baritone Dietrich Henschel, whose operatic career includes roles as diverse as Monteverdi's Orfeo and Berg's Wozzeck, copes admirable with the difficulties of Korngold's writing, but not always without a touch of strain in the higher register.  This is a class production by Harmonia Mundi, with CD notes by Brendan Carroll (who wrote the definitive biography of the composer, The Last Prodigy, published by Amadeus Press), along with complete texts in German, French and English. A minor debit is the booklet is too large to fit into the jewel case - to keep it and the CD together, one must use an outer sleeve which takes up more shelf space.

ASV's CD has the advantage of orchestral accompaniments which surely add to the overall effect.  The disk opens in rousing fashion with Tomorrow, adapted by the composer for concert use from his score for the 1942 film The Constant Nymph. Scored for soprano, female chorus and orchestra, it was premiered at a New York concert in 1944 with the composer conducting and Eileen Farrell as soloist. This music is Korngold at his best.  After a soft opening which builds to a smashing statement of timpani and gongs, the soprano sings the brief text by Margaret Kennedy, joined by the chorus.  This fine performance doesn't surpass Charles Gerhardt's definitive recording on RCA (60863) but it comes close.  Gigi Mitchell-Velasco's sumptuous mezzo is perfect for Korngold's music. Of particular interest is Prayer, Op. 32 to a text by Franz Werfel who was a close friend of the composer, scored for tenor solo (beautifully sung by Stephen Gould), female voices, harp and organ, here receiving not only its world premiere recording but possibly its first performance since the 1941 premiere. It seems rather odd that ASV chose to include incidental music for Much Ado About Nothing on this disk (even though it does include Garden Music, originally the prelude to Act II of the play, in its world premiere recording).  One might expect more vocal music, considering the two fine singers they had to work with.  Brendan Carroll also wrote CD notes for this release; texts are provided in English and German.  Caspar Richter and the Linz Bruckner Orchestra are superb, as they were on previous Korngold releases in this fine series.

R.E.B. (January 2003)