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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Erich Wolfgang Korngold - Songs (Konrad Jarnot; Adrianne Pieczonka)


Composer: Erich Wolfgang Korngold

  • (01-13) So Gott und Papa will
  • (14-19) Sechs einfache Lieder, Op. 9
  • (20-23) Lieder des Abschieds, Op. 14
  • (24-26) Drei Gesänger, Op. 18
  • (27) Nachts
  • (28-31) Unvergänglichkeit, Op. 27
  • (01) Sechs einfache Lieder, Op. 9: No. 6. Sommer (2nd version)
  • (02-03) Die tote Stadt, Op. 12: Marrietta's Lied & Tanzlied des Pierrot
  • (04-06) Drei Lieder, Op. 22
  • (07-11) Songs of the Clown, Op. 29
  • (12-15) Four Shakespeare Songs, Op. 31
  • (16-20) Fünf Lieder, Op. 38
  • (21) Sonett für Wien, Op. 41
  • (22-29) Einzeine Lieder

Konrad Jarnot, baritone
Adrianne Pieczonka, soprano
Reinild Mees, piano

Date: 2015
Label: Capriccio



Those who find Korngold’s music difficult to take may blench at the thought of a two-disc collection of his complete songs including previously unrecorded off-cuts, alternative versions, occasional pieces and extensive juvenilia (‘Der Knabe und das Veilchen’ is the work of a seven-year-old). Be that as it may, Capriccio’s project must be judged a major success. While individual items have been championed by such illustrious performers as Dietrich Henschel, Anne Sofie von Otter, Sarah Connolly and Renée Fleming, Adrianne Pieczonka and Konrad Jarnot explore further and are by no means outshone.

They make a slightly odd couple, this superstar Ariadne/Prima Donna and her Music Master, the latter allocated the lion’s share of the songs (there are no duets). Sopranos tackling Wagner as well as Strauss in the opera house do not always retain Pieczonka’s bloom and freshness in recital, and her vibrato only rarely hits the microphone unflatteringly. Brighton-born and German-domiciled, Jarnot is a natural recitalist, glorious in lyrical reverie, his light baritone strained now and then at high decibels. Reinild Mees navigates the challenging keyboard-writing with a rare combination of tact and sensitivity so that one barely registers the absence of the orchestra in the operatic excerpts or the Op 14 Abschiedlieder, source of the relatively familiar ‘Sterbelied’ after Christina Rossetti. Straussian Sachertorte is by no means the collection’s only mode. There’s early material indebted to Brahms, Wolf and Mahler, and the more utilitarian Shakespeare settings of the 1930s include a haunting take on ‘Desdemona’s [Willow] Song’ that might have been composed by Moeran or Warlock.

A little clunky design-wise, the accompanying booklet contains helpful notes by Brendan Carroll and biographies of the performers. So far so good, but, notwithstanding the singers’ clarity of diction and a lovely, lucid recording, the patchy provision of texts is a real drawback. In several cases we are told that permission to reprint relevant material was not forthcoming. Worse, as the settings are in either German or English, only listeners fluent in both will be unfazed by the absence of translations.

Take the Drei Lieder, Op 22. The first song, the glorious ‘Was du mir bist’, cheekily recycled in the Suite Korngold wrote for Paul Wittgenstein, is overtly melodic. Its successor is more speculative in manner, albeit less so than the virtually Expressionist Op 18 sequence. An upbeat closing number soars stratospherically…but why? Though Carroll assures us of the composer’s singular ability to reflect the mood of a poetic text, most will be none the wiser. Korngold’s last song, the ‘Sonett für Wien’, refashions a theme from Escape Me Never, his final Warner Brothers score. It’s wide-ranging in every sense, a tribute to the city that meant everything to him but which sadly failed to respond in kind after the Second World War.

Strongly recommended and an important step in the composer’s rehabilitation.

-- David Gutman, Gramophone

More reviews:
MusicWeb International  RECORDING OF THE MONTH


Erich Wolfgang Korngold (May 29, 1897 – November 29, 1957) was an Austrian-born composer and conductor. He was a noted pianist and composer of classical music, along with music for Hollywood films, and the first composer of international stature to write Hollywood scores. Along with such composers as Max Steiner and Alfred Newman, he is considered one of the founders of film music. Korngold's serious music, with his late romantic style, has recently undergone a re-evaluation and a gradual reawakening of interest.


Konrad Jarnot (born 1972 in Brighton) is an English baritone who works in opera and oratorio and is a notable performer of Lieder. Jarnot studied voice at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, with Rudolf Piernay and also took masterclasses with Helmuth Rilling and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. In April 1996 he won a Kathleen Ferrier Award, the Decca Prize. Since 2009 Jarnot has been a teacher at the Robert Schumann Hochschule in Düsseldorf and has given masterclasses in Europe and Japan.


Adrianne Pieczonka (born March 2, 1963 in Poughkeepsie, New York) is a Canadian soprano opera singer. She graduated from the Opera School of the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario. Her professional debut occurred with the Canadian Opera Company in 1988 in Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtensk. Her operatic repertoire includes Mozart, Britten, and more recently Wagnerian roles, especially Sieglinde. She holds Honorary Doctorates from the University of Western Ontario and McMaster University.


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