Adolf Jensen: Song Cycle — Dolorosa (Sadness)

17 11 2009

By zu78, used under Creative Commons

“The day I have enjoyed is now gone”

I fell off the horse, but I’m back on again. For awhile, I’ll post every 2-3 days. Better than nothing!

Adolf Jensen was a late romantic German composer and pianist known primarily for his piano and vocal works. According to Grove Music Dictionary, he “possessed one of the most delicate sensibilities of all late Romantic composers.” He knew several of the great composers and musicians of the day, dedicating his works to Berlioz, Brahms, Franz, and Gade, among others. “He succeeded in his mature piano music and songs in assimilating the stylistic influences of Chopin and Liszt into a thoroughly personal style. His professed aspiration in his later works was ‘to translate Wagner’s ideas of beauty and truth into music in the smaller forms.’”

Without question, Jensen is a name like so many others that has all but faded from musical memory. If these songs are any indication, it is perhaps due to the choice of maudlin texts and too strong a reliance on traditional harmonies and forms; at first glance, there appears to be  a lack of dimension or surprise in the piano and vocal writing. On the other hand, the simplicity and straight-forwardness of the music fits the text quite well. Unfortunately, I can’t find any recordings digitally available and not all of the songs are available yet on IMSLP, but the cycle definitely deserves a read and may prove useful as teaching pieces or on a musical program.

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Rhené-Bâton: Sérénade Mélancolique

6 05 2009

With your body, with your arms, make a tomb

With your body, with your arms, make a tomb

My love for the International Musical Scores Library Project grows by the day! Today, I discovered scores by a conductor and composer from the early 20th Century named Rhené-Bâton. His music sounds like a hybrid of Debussy and Fauré – not a bad thing!

The fourth song of Rhené-Bâton’s Op. 16 has an unabashed romantic flair. Much of the text describes the beauty one finds in a lover. At the end, though, the text turns dramatically, and the singer asks the beloved to “make a tomb” with his or her body within which the singer can hide from pain, hence the “melancholy” of the title.

Text (Jean Lahor) and new translation behind cut: Read the rest of this entry »





Johannes Brahms: Liebesklage des Maedchens (The maiden’s love lament)

24 03 2009
So hat mich Liebe verwundt

"So hat mich Liebe verwund't"

Brahms’s songs sound simple. The mark of a master, though, is to make the difficult seem effortless, and Brahms, Norman, and Barenboim accomplish that in this lover’s lament.

I initially was seeking Brahms’s Ophelia-Lieder, but could not locate a score online. The five songs last less than four minutes, and have also been recorded by Jessye Norman. They are lovely, but almost too simple — after all, they were intended to be sung unaccompanied and have a folk character.