Krenek: Lieder

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Krenek: Lieder Review

by James Leonard

Really, it's quiet beautiful. The pellucid lyricism of "O Trauenvolle," the opening Rilke song, is quite, quite beautiful. And as the gorgeous Rilke songs are followed by a glorious Goethe and a sarcastic Krauss song, five ironic Kafka songs, four ecstatic Gerard Manley Hopkins songs, an extraordinary Donne song (The Flea!), and a final set of nostalgic Emil Barth songs, one realizes that, really, all Krenek's songs are quite, quite beautiful. And that's because when he's not being a severe contrapuntist or an ironic modernist, Krenek is really an expressively lyrical composer. Even at his most austere, in the right performance Krenek's lines still sing and, on this disc, Krenek's lines soar on Christine Schäfer's luminous and sensual voice. She has a radiant tone, a passionate delivery, and a consummate technique, and her voice gives Krenek's songs wings. Accompanist Axel Bauni is deft and nuanced beneath her, moving with her voice and her line and the music's bone-deep lyricism with subtle tempo rubato. As sung by Schäfer, Krenek's songs sound as beautiful as the most beautiful songs ever composed. Listen to his setting of Hopkins' "Moonrise." Is this not Hopkins' "paradisiacal fruit" made music? And is it not as beautiful as Schumann and Brahms' songs setting poems on the same evanescent and transcendent moment? On this disc, it is. Orfeo's 1995 sound is warm, lucid, and as good as digital sound ever gets. The spirit of the music is in the room with you.

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