MARGERETE SCHWEIKERT (1887 – 1957)
Diana Tomsche (soprano)
Armin Kolarczyk (baritone)
Jeannette La-Deur (piano)
rec. 2015, SWR Kammermusikstudio, Stuttgart
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
TYXART TXA16085 [74:30]
Hard on the heels of Margarete Schweikert’s Im bitteren Menschenland comes another collection of her songs with the same pianist, Jeannette La-Deur, who has devoted herself to resurrecting Schweikert’s oeuvre to a rightful place in the repertoire. To know a bit about the composer readers are referred to the review of the previous disc, where I give a thumbnail sketch of her background and life. On that disc many of the poems – the majority of them by poets of her own generation – focused on death, even a longing for death. The overriding impression of that programme was somewhat dark and melancholy, even though there were gleams of light, even downright humoristic and burlesque songs. The general mood of the present collection is milder and lighter but death is present also here.
Stylistically she is easily recognisable: a late-romantic tonal language with Wagnerian harmonies, continuous modulations and elaborate piano part, rarely only accompaniment but thematically independent as a conversation partner of equal merit. As on the previous disc several songs are folksong inspired: the beautiful Nähe (tr. 2), a Goethe setting; Gustav Falke’s charming Die Verschmähte (tr. 5). Falke is a poet she often returns to. But there are also excursions outside the German field, though always performed in German translations: Auf einer Wiese (tr. 7), originally an Italian madrigal, charmingly set in ¾-time; the rather simple but beautiful Der Page (tr. 8) is a translation from a Danish poem by J. P. Jacobsen; Zusammen sterben (tr. 30) is from an anonymous Japanese poem. Anonymous is also the poem In Meissenheim (tr. 14), which is one of the finest songs on the disc, sung with great warmth by Armin Kolarczyk. Other highlights are Unser Haus (tr. 20) with gossamer light accompaniment, and the tragic but beautiful Meine Lippen brennen so (tr. 31).
There are a couple of closely connected groups of songs. The first of them is Frühlingslieder, Op. 12 (Spring Songs) (tr. 10-13), which one expects to be cheerful and optimistic, but the tone is decidedly darker and more dissonant than in the previous songs. Vier Lieder nach Gedichten von Martha Kropp (tr. 32-35) are permeated by a tone of fatefulness, not least through constantly shifting harmonies. The title of the first song is also rather forbidding, “Such a colourless day”, while the second, “Landscape” gives a vision of nature without human beings: “…the sand says, ‘I am the earth’ / And the trees say, ‘I am her dress!’ / The blue sky says, ‘I am infinity’”. The third song “Late summer” is possibly a metaphor for death, but a pleasant one: “The land is like a sleepy child / Prepared for bed and pleasant dreams.” But the final song is light in tone and jubilant: “It’s you who brighten my darkest night / ’Cause you’re with me in my dreams too!”
Throughout this programme is deeply engaging, full of variety and musically fascinating. Jeannette La-Deur reveals once again her deep insight in Margarete Schweikert’s musical world, and she backs up her two excellent singers with sensitive and dynamic playing. Baritone Armin Kolarczyk’s powerful but nuanced readings go to the heart of the songs whether they are dramatic, humoristic, sad or contemplative. Diana Tomsche’s lyric soprano is well suited to the songs allotted to her and she sings with a lot of charm. The recording is well-balanced, the liner-notes are informative and helpful and the song texts with English translations are oriented in the booklet. I have only one objection – and it’s a serious one: all the texts in the booklet are printed in white against black background. This is sheer madness. All expertise agree: For maximum readability black on white is the only alternative. The reverse implies unnecessary strain and a loss of information.
Having listened to 2½ hours of songs by Margarete Schweikert during a rather limited period of time, has convinced me that she is an unfairly overlooked composer. Through Jeannette La-Deur and her friends a renaissance is on its way, both live and on CD, and I urge readers with an interest in German Lieder acquaint themselves with her music, preferably through the disc under review and its predecessor.