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The concert continued with songs for voice and piano performed with great atmosphere and character by contralto Phillida Bannister and pianist Raphael Terroni. First, two intriguing songs by Korngold, contrasting in style and content. The Sonett fur Wien Op 41 had a strong motivic coherence, redolent of old Vienna, reminiscent too of his film music, a sweeping gesture that swoops up and swoons down. There was a strong Straussian echo in the gesture of yearning in the refrain-like phrase which frames the song, and beauty of harmony and line, with rapturous waves of intensity, to match the lyricism of the Sonett (by Hans Kaltneker), especially in the lengthy piano interlude before the final refrain.

Sterbelied Op 14 No 1 showed an even more pronounced Straussian idiom, melting between major and minor with an effulgent melisma on 'schlafe still' and some extravagantly chromatic harmonies -- radiating the heady sensuality of the poetry contrasting with the overall theme of the poem. Raphael Terroni accompanied with sensitivity and warmth of tone, while Phillida Bannister brought great richness to the lines.

It was interesting to hear the seldom-performed songs of Miklos Rosza, Nostalgia -- Two Songs showing a more modern idiom redolent of 1930s and 40s Hollywood. Similarly, Two Brecht settings from Hans Eisler's Hollywood Lierderbuch showed the elusive style of his 'American exile'. The quaint love song An den kleinen Radioapparat ('To the Little Radio') ended with a questioning note, contrasted by 'Uber den Selbstmord' in which the simple, low lying and austere chordal accompaniment, and rather stark melody line, created an aptly dark, even expressionless mood. Far from representing an aesthetic alienation, this aptly matched its gloomy subject.

The Eisler songs were framed with two by Kurt Weill which could not have been more contrasting in their dance-like lilt and melodic appeal. Firstly, the attractive tangoesque Youkali with its seductive melody and evocatively subtle chromaticisms, especially the unexpected inner voice switches of mode in the ending. Finally Wie lange Noch concluded the recital with vivid cabaret style projection and panache.

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Copyright © 10 June 2008 Malcolm Miller, London UK


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