Linda Finnie / Edward Downes / BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

Korngold: Symphony in F sharp major; Abschiedslieder

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The two substantial selections on this Chandos release represent the early and late phases of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's impressive career and show the wide stylistic range and versatility of his work. The lush post-Romanticism of the Lieder des Abschieds, Op. 14, is typical of the youthful Korngold's music from the early '20s, and this haunting work is contemporary with his operatic masterpiece Die tote Stadt. These four orchestral songs partake of the musical language of Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss, particularly in their poignant harmonies, richly colored orchestration, and overwhelmingly melancholy moods. In contrast, the Symphony in F sharp major is a rough-hewn and problematic work that reflects the tensions of tonal modernism in the years following WWII, as well as the difficulties the composer faced in using the expanded Romantic symphonic form for the first and only time. The 1992 performance of the songs by contralto Linda Finnie and the BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Edward Downes, does justice to Korngold's tenderly lyrical side, while the same orchestra and conductor give the symphony a muscular reading that is striking in its vehemence and power. Chandos delivers excellent reproduction in both offerings, though the sound is somewhat crisper and more concentrated in the recording of the symphony.

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