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cpo 999 826-2 [CD]

Songs for Alto and Baritone (22 Lieder - Includes: Helge's Treue, op 1; Ritter Olaf, op 19; Landschaftsbilder, op 20; Vier Lieder, op 81)
Ingeborg Danz [Alto], Roman Trekel [Baritone], Cord Garben [Piano]

Commentary by Alan Krueck (June 2007)

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Read Henry Fogel's review from Fanfare

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AKCoburg Recordings

Ordinarily this representative of IDS/NA does not engage in public critiques of recordings of music by Felix Draeseke and what follows is not a critique, for this long awaited CPO release (since 2002) is a must have for anyone the least bit interested in the development of Felix Draeseke. What is offered here are some observations which may be of interest concerning the release.

Cord Garben, the pianist on this recording, was thoughtful enough to contact this writer about five years ago to inform IDG and IDS/NA of the undertaking with these songs. In Germany, since about 2004, individual songs from the collection have been reported as being broadcast on German radio stations, but the disc remained commercially unavailable until earlier this year.

The choice of songs makes for a compelling survey of Draeseke´s Lieder output. Although Das verlassene Mägdlein (Eduard Mörike) appears on AK/Coburg DR 0005 with soprano Ingrid Würtz and pianist Wolfgang Müller-Steinbach, only the three songs of Ritter Olaf (Heinrich Heine) - all of about 6 minutes - and Emanuel Geibel’s Das sterbende Kind (Op. 24, No.2 ca. 2 minutes) have appeared on compact disc heretofore; Ritter Olaf and the complete Trauer and Trost, Op. 24 containing Das sterbende Kind can be had, if one is patient and lucky enough to find the recording (LM - MA-1029, see website discography), with tenor Wolfgang Röntz and Wolfgang Müller-Steinbach, piano.

How CPO selected the program seems to have been predicated somewhat on easy availability of English translations of the poems used. The poet whom Draeseke drew upon more than any other was his Dresden colleague Adolf Stern, but none of Sterns poems seem to have reached English translation prior to the booklet for AK/Coburg DR 0005. It is good to report that CPO passed over recording anew Draeseke’s six Op. 2 Märzblumen with texts by Stern available on the aforementioned AK-Coburg CD, since the listener profits from a broad selection of wonderful choices sung most effectively by alto Ingeborg Danz and baritone Roman Trekel with truly sensitive accompaniment from pianist Cord Garben.

Above all we now at last have the first recording of Helges Treue, Draeseke’s official opus 1 and a stunning achievement for its time. As many realize, this is the vocal ballad which gripped the attention of Franz Liszt who, with Draeseke’s approval, arranged the work for piano and melodramatic declamation. Those who may have the Accord or Hyperion recording of Liszt’s arrangment will certainly find the differences between the two compelling, not only declamation versus singing, but also the length: at over 14 minutes, Draeseke’s original is almost twice the length of Liszt’s melodrama adaptation. Helges Treue is a dramatic masterpiece as worthy of any singer’s Lieder repertoire as later ballads by Brahms, Richard Strauß or Hugo Wolf. For this listener’s taste, baritone Roman Trekel captures all the varied nuances of Draeseke’s music to this very strange poem of Moritz von Strachwitz. Draeseke devotees should relish the entire production, for alto Ingeborg Danz is a sensitive and interpretively versatile singer as well in her songs.

Alan H. Krueck
June 2007

Complete track listing; listen to excerpts of this recording by clicking on any track:

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