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Johannes Martin Kränzle & Hilko Dumno Die Mitternacht zog näher schon OC 815 CD
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FormatAudio CD
Ordering NumberOC 815
Release date02/10/2009
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Busoni, Ferruccio
  • Loewe, Carl
  • Mahler, Gustav
  • Schubert, Franz
  • Schumann, Robert
  • Wolf, Hugo

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      Johannes Martin Kränzle, Bariton
      Hilko Dumno, Klavier

      The baritone Johannes Maria Kränzle has been a member of the Frankfurt Opera since 1998. In 2010, he will also make his debut as Alberich in Rhinegold at La Scala in Milan and at the Berlin State Opera under Daniel Barenboim; he is currently performing the role of Bluebeard as a guest artist at the Cologne Opera. Songs account for a large part of his artistic work; his is now performing in this capacity on CD for the first time. The ballad embodies the narrative element of the art song like no other genre. On this CD, Kränzle takes a short journey through the history of the romantic ballad, beginning with Carl Loewe’s op. 1 no. 1 through to a work by Feruccio Busoni, the Faust ballad “Song of Mephistopheles” composed in 1919.

      Hilko Dumno

      Hilko Dumno studied piano, chamber music and lied accompaniment at the Academies of Music in Detmold and Frankfurt am Main. His teachers include Gregor Weichert, Rainer Hoffmann, Tabea Zimmermann and Charles Spencer. He was a scholarship recipient of the Deutscher Musikrat, the Villa Musica Mainz and the Yehudi Menuhin Foundation.

      Hilko Dumno regularly accompanies such artists as Christoph Prégardien, Johannes Martin Kränzle, Christine Schäfer, Hans-Jörg Mammel, Hedwig Fassbender, Julia Kleiter and Johannes Schendel, appearing with them at venues such as the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, the Schwetzingen Festival, the Schubertiade Schwarzenberg, the Dresdner Music Festival, the Lucerne Festival and the Amadeus Festival in Geneva.

      Concert tours have taken him to North America and Japan.

      Various CD productions as well as radio productions for the NDR and HR radio broadcasting companies as well as for Radio de la Suisse Romande document his artistic abilities.

      Hilko Dumno teaches lied accompaniment at the Academy for Music and Theater in Frankfurt am Main.

      The midnight atmosphere approaches: Romantic Ballads

      Taking pleasure in story-telling is part of human nature. Whether these revolve around everyday occurrences or acts of state, everything wants its own story told – either confided orally or captured in written form. At the same time, humans also have the need to translate their experiences into the most suitable form and then expand upon them artistically. Many different models with many different lengths and guises have developed, such as epic or novel, novella or poem. The name “Ballade” was adapted from the English folksong by Herder, Goethe, Bürger and Uhland, those poets who first used this form for their narrative poems. The form quickly attracted composers as well. In any event, Goethe perceived his ballads as being meant to be sung, i.e. he saw them more as songs than as poems: “The ballad must be mysterious without being mystical; this latter quality of a poem lies in its subject, the former in its treatment. The secret of the ballad is in its delivery. The singer has his succinct story, his characters, their deeds and movements so deeply in his subconscious that he doesn’t know how to bring them into his consciousness. He thus uses all three basic poetic forms in order to first express that which should arouse the imagination and absorb the soul. He can begin lyrically, epically or dramatically and continue on by changing forms as he wishes, either hurrying on or drawing out the ending as long as possible.”

      As a counterpart to the condensed moment that lyric poetry can offer a composer (as in the Wandrers Nachtlied: “Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh”), the ballad offers the composer the opportunity to colorfully describe, to alternate different tones of voice so that the narrator effectively conveys a dialog. The fact that the music follows the action leads to an essential compositional demand on the ballad arrangement: it must be freed from the strict verse form in which – despite an ongoing story – the music only repeats. This emancipation process began soon after the first early romantic ballads, which were still captive to the verse-based model. The selection of works on this CD is exemplary in revealing this process.

      Carl Loewe, the earliest composer whose works are heard on this recording, is the uncrowned king of ballads, so to speak. After first attempts by Johann Zumsteeg – who had already set the scene for the “ghostly, nocturnally atmospheric and eery tone” (August Wilhelm Ambros) – and his contemporaries, Loewe carried this genre to its heights. Although the genre did change in type, its impact, however, could hardly be surpassed. Loewe is thus considered to be the actual creator of the ballad. In the number of his compositions as well, no other composer ever rivaled him; he wrote hundreds of ballads. The inherited verse structure was only the point of departure for Loewe. Most often, he exploits a main musical motive to such an extent that it always suits the characteristics of the text at hand.

      Loewe also frequently set texts from other European and even Asian cultures, so that one finds Serbian, Polish, Hebrew or Arabic songs in his catalog of works. The ballad of Edward comes from Scotland and was translated by Johann Gottfried von Herder (in the anthology “Stimmen der Völker in Liedern”). Loewe chose this poem to use as his first “official” work. The ballad was published in 1824 as Opus 1, no. 1. The discovery of Edward’s patricide is set like a “suspenseful” detective story in which the resolution is constantly delayed. There is even a last twist in the story that keeps listeners on the edge of their seats until the very end. (Johannes Brahms even used this story as a model for the first of his Piano Ballads op. 10.) The ballad Herr Oluf is also one of Loewe’s earliest. It was originally a Danish text, likewise translated into German by Herder. The substantial role of the piano in this work is quite noteworthy. It sometimes even resembles a pianistically conceived orchestral movement: the introduction and interludes already span an arc to the fully composed operatic scene. The final tone (D) is the lowest in the recital recorded here; the highest note (A-flat’) on this CD is found in the next song, Der Mohrenfürst auf der Messe, which was written 20 years later. This text of this work, written by Ferdinand Freiligrath, is an example of early criticism of colonial exoticism, in which people were taken from their native countries solely to satisfy cravings for sensation. The rolling octaves in the bass and the trumpet calls in the treble anticipate the drama, and the high tessitura of the voice only intensify the cries of desperation of the forlorn creature. Goethe’s Hochzeitlied was published by Loewe in 1832 (as Op. 20, no. 1), together with Zauberlehrling and Wandelnde Glocke.

      In the tone typical of the ballad, it begins in a declamatory fashion: a leap of a fourth at the beginning of every verse and repeated cadences structure the narrative, which is enriched with catchy interludes and deceptive harmonies. The depiction of the wedding banquet resounds like the cabaletta of a belcanto comedy, in which the words nearly trip over themselves just like the industrious hustle of the dwarves – until the rolling piano figures slowly descend into the deeper registers of the instrument as the piece comes to its epilogue.

      Before Robert Schumann turned to the composition of vocal music in his “Lied year” 1840, the year which could be considered a liberation from his deep personal and musical crisis, he had almost exclusively written for the piano. This greatly benefited his songs, because he knew just how he could use the piano for them. His delicate tonal shadings and rich rhythmic foundation always give the voice a basis over which it can freely unfold and shape the melody. The song Frühlingsfahrt (Schumann uses the title that Eichendorff gave his poem in the first edition; Eichendorff later renamed it “Die Zwei Gesellen”) describes two lives that both fail, each for different reasons: one person ends up with all the creature comforts of bourgeois life, the other sinks into a life of unbridled hedonism. Musically, Schumann follows both fates, from the carefree departure of the two lads into the world, expressed through cheerful horn signals, to the use of increasingly stereotypical figures that can be interpreted with settling down (Günther Spies), until Neapolitan chords and other harmonic deviations make the ground seem to sway and a downwards sequence imitates drowning in the depths of ruin. The profound postlude spins out by several measures the last thoughts that illustrate religious transformation. In the song Der Schatzgräber – likewise composed in fall 1840 – Schumann also uses falling sequences of tones to depict real downwards movement; the upwardly striving piano line continually falls back down again. This symbolic relationship also contains another level: it represents the failure and futility of the treasure seeker’s obsession. Someone who only seeks earthly possessions might end up at best like Sisyphus, but will probably end up as the laughingstock in hell. Belsazar was written at the beginning of 1840 and is probably Schumann’s first setting of a Heine poem. The legend is based on the bible story of Daniel (chapter V). In its musical development, it follows the exceptionally alarming situation in all its complexity to the very end. In the blasphemy scene, the “Ich” is highlighted in a number of manners (through long accents, metrically emphasized and underscored by a diminished seventh chord) while the Menetekel appearance subtly gains concealed tension through the pulling back of the tempo and volume. Die beiden Grenadiere (from the chapter “Junge Leiden” in “Buch der Lieder”) documents Heinrich Heine’s enthusiasm for Napoleon – and Schumann’s agreement in regard to the liberal ideas of the French Revolution. This is demonstrated musically by the pathos of the march-like opening bars and especially by the final verse that evolves into a triumphant D Major (including a quote from the Marseillaise) – even though it turns out to be only the feverish vision of a fatally wounded soldier, which then closes with a sad, regretful piano postlude.

      Hugo Wolf’s drastic art, which makes its point at the entrance of the first note, is a major contrast to the expansive lyrical song of a Johannes Brahms, who considered the ballad to be solely an instrumental form. Some of Wolf ’s songs last hardly one minute but change their mood every few measures. Goethe’s Gutmann und Gutweib tells the story of a strange wager between a a husband and wife: one cold night, the one who speaks the first syllable must get out of bed and bar the door. This ends up being to the great benefit of two burglars, who come in and take advantage of all the treats in the kitchen. Only when they start getting into the liquor cabinet does the man lose his nerves. Despite a certain profusion of motives, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau emphasizes the “delicacy of the details” of this scene, which Wolf hoped would qualify him for the opera.

      Der Feuerreiter is certainly among Wolf ’s most famous songs. Eduard Mörike was actually discovered by Wolf, and the composer contributed to the fact that the Swabian poet once again received recognition. The poem is based on the popular belief in fire prophets or fire riders, who would sense fires from great distances and be magically drawn to them, even though they were not permitted to quench them. Wolf takes this uncanny situation – which he sometimes wanted sung “in a whisper”, sometimes “wildly” and sometimes “secretively” – from its murmuring begin, to the fire bells that stabilize the key and then all the way to a fiery conflagration (“Hinterm Berg, hinterm Berg”), until the rafters are burnt to ash and simply cave in. After a breathless quiet, the fate of the doomed fire rider is fulfilled in the epilogue.

      Der Zwerg is one of the many songs that Franz Schubert set to poems of his friends. In this case, the text comes from Matthäus von Collin (whose play Coriolan was immortalized by Beethoven by the latter’s overture). The dark effect of the setting is due to the four-note ostinato motive in the accompaniment, which fatefully aims at the main beats of the measure as though knocking: truly a Beethoven-like effect The dense harmony and rhythm persevere throughout the song, fashioning it into a macabre, black, shivery-romantic fantasy. And as significant as Carl Loewe was for this song genre, it is Schubert who created the epitome of the musical ballad with his Erlkönig, based on Goethe’s poem. (This in no way suggests that Loewe’s setting does not measure up to Schuberts, however.) Published as Opus 1, this song became his most famous even during his lifetime. But this song, however, breaks all the bounds of taste that Goethe’s musician friends Reichardt and Zelter had placed upon the art of setting poetry to music. The result was that the poet was not very pleased at first. He returned the carefully notated song manuscript that Schubert had sent to him in Weimar without comment. Two years before his death, however, the elderly Goethe heard Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient sing the ballad and was able to warm up to this “tour de force” of octave barrages and vocal diversity. “Sung in this manner, it begins to take on the form of a painting.”

      Every note that Gustav Mahler ever wrote tells a story. The composer who wanted to “create a world” in his symphonies could not imagine music as separate from life. Using the term “ballad” for the three Mahler songs on this recording can thoroughly be justified. Mahler himself designated some of his settings of poems from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” – which was his only source of lyrics for a long time – as “humoresques” as Carl Loewe before him had also done. Mahler uses this term practically synonymously with “ballad” – which has the advantage of emphasizing the special significance of humor in his music. It is especially the reserved narrative style of the ballad that enables ironic nuances to be more effective. One example is Lob des hohen Verstandes from 1896, which in an earlier version had been titled “Lob der Kritik” (“a priceless derision of criticism” according to Natalie Bauer-L echner, from whom this quote has come down to us). The song, which must be sung with no dearth of insolence, is amazing in that the nightingale’s music hardly differs from the cuckoo’s at all; the notation is almost identical. Only the instructions regarding delivery bring about the desired differentiation. We hear, so to speak, what the “judge donkey” – who is just as prejudiced as he is limited – wants to hear. The same collection, simply entitled “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” by Mahler, also includes the song Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt (which later reappears in the scherzo of the Second Symphony). In this satire on hypocrisy and fickleness, presented as a Ländler, Mahler has the accompaniment gurgle along in hurdy-gurdy-like figures. Benjamin Folkman has stated succinctly that this critical view seems even more human the “fishier” the music is. Mahler considered Revelge (published in the “Sieben Lieder aus letzter Zeit”) to be his most important Wunderhorn song; he had long worked on its setting before completing the final version of it in summer 1899. The march rhythm strictly and inexorably persists from beginning till end in this song. Above it unfolds the artfully complex melody, whose hopeless incantation seems all the more ghostly due to its spitefully happy “tralali”. In the end, we experience – as a counterpart to Schumann’s Grenadiere – the “march and struggle of the drummer even after his death” (Alphons Silbermann).

      The German-Italian musician Ferruccio Busoni was one of the greatest pianists of the early 20th century, and as a composer, he was a fascinating figure caught between new aesthetic concepts and traditional ideas about sound ideals. Whereas most of his oeuvre consists of piano music (including many of his Bach-inspired arrangements and original works), opera – especially his Doktor Faustus – is the genre he worked in that today still holds the most implications for us. After the first songs from his days as a student, he didn’t return to this genre until 1919, when he set a number of Goethe poems to music, including the Lied des Mephistopheles from the scene in Auerbach’s cellar in Faust I – which is thus closely related to the sketches for his unfinished Goethe opera. In his late songs, according to Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt, Busoni strives for truly vocal scenes, often built on one single musical idea. In this case, Flohlied, the piece is based on staccato figures in the piano that attain increasing rhythmic movement. When the plague of fleas gets out of hand and all attempts to alleviate it are doomed, the perpetuum mobile figures accelerate. Over them, the voice, with plastic declamation, expresses the growing desperation of the royal court. Busoni’s treatment of vocal lines has been compared with Schubert’s in his great ballads: they are not operas, but miniatures with an enthralling immediacy of dramatic expression and feeling.

      Malte Krasting
      Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler

      Tracklist hide

      CD 1
      • Carl Loewe (1796–1869)
        • 1.dward (J.G. Herder)05:30
        • 2.Herr Oluf05:57
        • 3.Der Mohrenfürst auf der Messe
          (F. Freiligrath)
        • 4.Hochzeitlied (J.W. Goethe)05:19
      • Robert Schumann (1810–1856)
        • 5.Frühlingsfahrt (J. von Eichendorff )03:02
        • 6.Der Schatzgräber03:02
        • 7.Belsazar (H. Heine)04:51
        • 8.Die beiden Grenadiere03:28
      • Hugo Wolf (1860–1903)
        • 9.Gutmann und Gutweib (J.W. Goethe)05:07
        • 10.Der Feuerreiter (E. Mörike)05:43
      • Franz Schubert (1797–1828)
        • 11.Der Zwerg (M. v. Collin)05:20
        • 12.Erlkönig (J.W. Goethe)04:03
      • Gustav Mahler (1860–1911)
        • 13.Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt
          (A. v. Arnim / C. Brentano)
        • 14.Lob des hohen Verstandes02:49
        • 15.Revelge06:41
      • Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924)
        • 16.Flohlied (J.W. Goethe)01:26
      • Total:01:10:53