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Hyperion Records

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A Summer Night (1890) by Albert Joseph Moore (1841-1893)
© Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67844
Recording details: January 2012
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: November 2012
Total duration: 32 minutes 17 seconds

'Vignoles plays the often extended introductions and postludes … quite magically, to say nothing of the extended interludes … my pleasure in this latest volume is without any reservations. Elizabeth Watts sings gloriously, rising fluently to the high tessitura of Strauss's melodic lines (immediately obvious in the first few songs included in the recital). Her beautiful voice, sensitive phrasing and response to word-meanings are consistently rewarding and her partnership with Roger Vignoles could hardly be more beautifully balanced' (Gramophone)

'Watts takes flight in this repertoire, her warm, generous soprano broadening into a luscious, creamy-toned wonder. Tonal glamour? You bet' (The Guardian)

'Watts has the full measure of the drama … she reveals herself as an accomplished Straussian throughout this recital and nowhere more so than in the very last song that the composer wrote, Malven, written for soprano Maria Jeritza in 1948 after he had finished the Vier letzte Lieder. A gift from one great artist to another and a fitting end to this admirable recording' (International Record Review)

Krämerspiegel, Op 66
composer
March to May 1918; first published in 1921
author of text
March 1918

Introduction  EnglishDeutsch
With this recording a curious work takes the stage that has been waiting in the wings ever since Volume 2 of the series. In the notes to that volume, I recounted how Strauss became embroiled in an increasingly bitter dispute with his publishers Bote & Bock which ultimately led to the composition of, among other songs, the Drei Ophelia-Lieder from Opus 67. To recap briefly, having become increasingly outraged at the almost total lack of copyright enjoyed by composers at that time, and the correspondingly overweening power of publishers, Strauss founded in 1898 the Society of German Composers. As its name implies, its purpose was to protect and further composers’ rights, and especially to collect fees and royalties.

The publishers retaliated by creating a rival organization whose main purpose was to oppose the efforts of Strauss and his associates. One of their leading members was the house of Bote & Bock, the publishers of the Sinfonia Domestica, to whom Strauss had also assigned his Opus 56 songs, published in 1906. Unfortunately, in the contract for Opus 56, he had unwisely allowed a clause to be inserted giving Bote & Bock the rights to his next six songs whenever they might be composed.

Becoming increasingly at loggerheads with the firm, Strauss prevaricated for as long as he could. For a time he had the excuse that he was too busily engaged with composing operas to have space for song-writing—the following years saw the premieres of Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Frau ohne Schatten. But in 1918 he found himself threatened with a court case. By then he had in his desk drawer the six Brentano-Lieder, later published as Opus 68 (see Volume 5), but he had no intention of surrendering such a magnificent set to Bote & Bock.

Instead he turned to Alfred Kerr, a well-known Berlin literary critic, who in March 1918 produced for him a witty set of satirical verses lampooning music publishers, and mentioning many of Strauss’s principal enemies by name. By May Strauss had set all twelve poems to music and dispatched them to Bote & Bock, who not surprisingly refused them out of hand. Eventually forced to discharge his obligation, which he did with the Ophelia-Lieder and three songs from Goethe’s Bücher des Unmuts des Rendsch Nameh, Strauss remained attached to his practical joke, and it finally saw the light of day in 1921, in a private de luxe edition by the art publisher Paul Cassirer, with illustrations by Michael Fingesten.

It is easy to understand why the cycle is now rarely performed, given that the texts consist entirely of in-jokes, and that the lion’s share of the music is given to the pianist. But Strauss’s music is well worth savouring, not least for its humorous references to Strauss’s own works, such as Der Rosenkavalier and Ein Heldenleben, and especially for the beautiful prelude to the eighth song and its reprise as the final extended postlude. This has a history quite independent of the cycle, as Strauss revived its lyrical, Schumannesque theme nearly a quarter of a century later, in his opera Capriccio.

from notes by Roger Vignoles © 2012

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