Come Away, Death - Kielland / Osadchuk
Classical - Vocal
Korngold, Plagge, Sibelius, Ratkje, Finzi, Mussorgsky
Marianne Beate Kielland (mezzo soprano)
Sergej Osadchuk (piano)
Death is as natural as love. But whereas love is bright and beautiful, death is dark and irreversible. Our modern society encourages us to live out our dreams and desires to try to achieve personal goals, and to strive for immortality through medication, operations and beauty treatment – no wonder death frightens us. There is a general tendency in our western culture to avoid coming to terms with death. We all know that one day Death will come knocking at our door, but we do not want to think about it. Contemplating death through words and music can evoke those beautiful, sad stories, wonderful music and the ability to experience emotions beyond those that are simply superficial.
- Gerald Finzi: Come away, death
- Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Narrenlieder, Op. 29 'Songs of the Clown'
- Modest Mussorgsky: Songs and Dances of Death
- Wolfgang Plagge: Södergran-sanger
- Maja S. K. Ratkje: HVIL
- Jean Sibelius: 2 laulua kitaran tai pianon säestyksellä William Shakespearen Trettondagsafton (Songs for Shakespeare's The Twelfth Night), Op. 60
Review by Graham Williams - September 22, 2010
When it comes to issuing unusual and thought-provoking repertoire on SACD, it would be hard to find a more imaginative and persuasive exponent of this policy than Morten Lindberg and his marvellous 2L label. Each new release is the start of a new musical adventure for the listener in which both the familiar and unfamiliar comfortably coexist in a carefully constructed programme. This release entitled ‘Come away Death’ is a perfect example of the 2L approach.
The mezzo-soprano Marianne Beate Kielland and her pianist Sergej Osadchuk have dared to compile a whole programme of songs on the subject of death; yet anyone imagining 63 minutes of unrelenting gloom will be more than pleasantly surprised by the results heard on this recording.
The disc’s title is represented by three very different settings of the well-known poem from Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Jean Sibelius and Gerald Finzi. These make for fascinating comparisons in composing styles particularly when performed so beautifully as here by Kielland and her partner.
The Korngold setting taken from his ‘Songs of a Clown’ Op.29 is, as one might expect, melodic and lyrical with a kinship to Mahler’s ‘Kindertotenlieder’ and like the Finzi is sung in English. The Sibelius, sung in Norwegian as ‘Kom og bli død’ and originally written with a guitar accompaniment, is more austere and declamatory in style while the Finzi, arguably the finest of the settings, begins each verse with a few bars suggesting a stately funeral march before the singer enters with a melody of poignant sadness.
Interleaved with these brief songs are three more substantial pieces.
Wolfgang Plagge’s ‘Södergran-sanger’ sets four poems by Edith Södergran (1892-1923). In Plagge’s own words, “ The musical language of these four set songs attempts to reproduce and reinforce both the ascetic and the uninhibited aspects of Södergran’s incomparable language – the songs are somewhere in between recitation and traditional through-composed songs.” These songs have a fragile beauty and emotional power that Kielland and Osadchuck express with great sensitivity.
HVIL (Rest) by Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje and Aasne Linnestrå is a virtuoso piece of avant-garde composition for both voice and piano and is certainly the most challenging work on this disc. The poem, untranslatable into English, is a plea from the earth to the humankind to slow down and be more aware of the earth’s fragility; its political message clearly related to the issues around climate change. The singer is required to whisper, speak, sing and declaim the words of the poem over a complex piano part that often uses the extreme registers of the instrument as well as encompassing a huge dynamic range. The Nordlande Musikkfestuke, Bodø, commissioned the 20-minute work in 2008 and as Marianne Beate Kielland gave the premier there and the composer is co-producer for this recording one can safely assume that the performance given here is authoritative. It is not easy listening and I am not sure how often one would wish to return to this harrowing piece.
Kielland and Osadchuk complete their programme with a moving and vividly characterised performance of Mussorgsky’s magnificent ‘Songs and Dances of Death’. Nowadays these four songs are more often heard in the version orchestrated by Shostakovich and sung by a bass or baritone, but are equally effective in Mussorgsky’s original.
The sound quality of 2L’s 5.1 DXD recording made in Sofienberg Church in January 2009 is state-of-the-art. Those listening in multi-channel will be interested to see the two diagrams in the booklet notes that show the placements used for singer and piano (one for HVIL and one for the other tracks) relative to the microphones, and the very different aural results that emerge.
Presentation of the disc is equally immaculate, with full texts, translations and notes on the music provided.
If the content appeals don’t hesitate to acquire this intriguing SACD.
Copyright © 2010 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net