Verboten und verbannt (Forbidden and Banned) is the title of Orfeo D'Or's CD of a live Salzburg Festival performance by Thomas Hampson given on August 18, 2005. The program is a very intelligently conceived survey of lieder by composers whose works were suppressed during the Nazi period, all Jewish, and all either German or Austrian. The program begins in the nineteenth century with composers banned by the Nazis in hindsight. One wonders why one would seek to place a ban on these playfully innocent Mendelssohn lieder or Giacomo Meyerbeer's frothy concoctions, which seem more suitable for the cabaret than any political forum anyone can imagine.
The balance of the program is made up of composers for whom the Nazis pogrom against musicians was more up close and personal. Perhaps the most extraordinary group of songs in the recital are those by Alexander Zemlinsky, moving, beautifully crafted lied that demonstrate excellently well the exploratory strain in Zemlinsky's music. So much emphasis has been placed on approaching Zemlinsky through his orchestral and chamber music that the lieder has gotten short shrift, and Hampson's performances of these pieces are absolutely ideal -- at the end of "Auf dem Meere meiner Seele" the audience hesitates at the beginning of its applause, as though they cannot believe what their ears have heard.
Eric Zeisl's airy and mysterious song "Die Nacht bricht an" and his more assertive "Schrei" identify him as a clear heir to German post-romanticism, operating in 1935 in a vacuum of calm in Vienna but in 1938 forced to emigrate. Arnold Schoenberg is represented by four songs, of which the best here is "Der verlorene Haufen, Op. 12/2." Hampson is able to point up the spooky and expressionist cast of a work usually identified as "pre-atonal," though Schoenberg himself indicated it as the forerunner of the Second String Quartet, Op. 10, part of which is atonal. Schoenberg's student Alban Berg is also heard in four songs taken from his early Jugendlieder, suppressed not only due to his complicity with Schoenberg but through his own family's wishes until the 1980s. A transparent, yet passionate performance of Gustav Mahler's more familiar Rückert Lieder concludes this excellent and educational program. The audience is thankfully quiet and respectful for the most part, and Orfeo's recording is close and warm.