Music is not just art. It is also entertainment, sociability, a set of practices which involve skills, human interactions, and rituals – some of which have very few “artistic” elements. And these practices evolve with time. Musical scores are handed down in a seemingly (and deceivingly so) unchangeable fashion: a composition printed in the early eighteenth century can be read by today’s musicians with ease. (Still, of course, how to read such a score is not that straightforward, and requires careful handling of performance practice issues, many of which still are, and will probably remain, unsolved). If, however, equipped with historically informed performance practices and suitable instruments, a musician can interpret a score from the past with some confidence, many of the related “non-musical” practices are unavoidably lost. These practices are constantly changing, even though the last century has seen an unprecedented speed in such evolutions. Before it, however, one may mention the epoch-making ascent of the (musical) bourgeoisie between eighteenth and nineteenth century, whereby musical practices once typical, and reserved, for music professionals and their aristocratic patrons migrated to the much larger category of bourgeois amateur musicians. This category ruled the musical market throughout the Biedermeier and Romantic era, until, in the twentieth century, a series of factors led to new, fundamental changes. Entertainment, even if considered just in its musical component, changed dramatically. The soirée in which amateur musicians gathered and sang Lieder or songs for hours gradually got out of fashion, when record players and radios took over. The greater freedom enjoyed by (young) women led musical activities to take place increasingly in specific places, from theatres to dancing halls to cafes or cabarets; this, in turn, led to the increasing professionalization of musical practices, observed today, when music “for music’s sake” is becoming a rarity in many countries. Prior to these phenomena, however, the market for printed songs was thriving. Although it is not my goal here to compare facts and figures, one can easily imagine that musical scores of pleasant Lieder were as important for nineteenth century amateur musicians as are mp3s for today’s passive consumers of music. The associated volume of affairs was by no means negligible, and two categories profited most from it: composers and publishers. Frequently, their interests coincided: both aimed at producing good publications, at advertising and disseminating them widely, and at receiving economic advantages from the process. However, unsurprisingly, when the time came for sharing these profits, that idyllic coincidence of interests began to fade. The Lieder recorded in this Da Vinci Classics CD, indeed, tell a story of composer/publisher relationships, while also offering the fascinating listening experience one rightfully expects of a composer such as Richard Strauss. The three collections recorded here, in fact, might be seen as merely exemplifying the larger output (approximately 200 songs) written by Richard Strauss throughout his compositional life, from his years as a music student until his very last months. However, there is the red thread of the composer/publisher relationships which might help us consider the undeniable beauty of this music also from the more prosaic – or rather more practical – viewpoint of the musicians’ thriving and survival, and of the market forces which have some weight even in the artistic field. Strauss was in his very early twenties when he created what is now known as his Op. 10. It is, under many aspects, an opera prima, since that was the first time he attempted the composition of a song cycle, intended as an organic whole, with an internal strategy and logic. In spite of this, the cycle was not created from the beginning in the form it has today (one further song, Wer hat’s getan?, was excised from the series), and songs excerpted from it are frequently heard in isolation, even though they are best understood when performed as a cycle. The songs set to music some poems written by Hermann von Gilm (1812-1864), a poet who was highly appreciated and widely celebrated in the second half of the nineteenth century, but is now almost forgotten. He died in the same year when Strauss was born, and this might have intrigued the composer. Strauss came to know his poetry through a friend of his, Ludwig Thuile, who, in 1882, introduced Strauss to a collection of Gilm’s poetry, called Letzte Blätter (“Last Pages”). Several among the poems contained therein had already been set to music; for instance, Allerseelen had received a musical version by Eduard Lassen. Strauss, in spite of his young age, was by no means frightened by the comparison; indeed, his musical career was already safely launched, and when he wrote his own version of Allerseelen he was replacing Hans von Bülow (one of the giants in the German musical scene of the era) as the conductor of the Meiningen symphony orchestra. It was in the same city that several of the op. 10 songs were premiered, sung by Rudolf Engelhardt, a famous tenor at the time. The songs were indeed conceived for a tenor voice, but not primarily for Engelhardt. Strauss had the chance of submitting the songs, in a manuscript form, to the attention of Heinrich Vogl (1845-1900), one of the leading figures in the panorama of late-Romantic German opera. Vogl was clearly enthralled by the pieces, and practically required Strauss to dedicate them to him. This would have been a stroke of luck for the young composer’s career, since Vogl was a star singer; however, from the viewpoint of family relationships, the issue was delicate. Strauss’ musical studies had been partly funded by his aunt, Johanna Pschorr, and it was expected that he would dedicate his first song collection to her. The last word on the matter was said by Strauss’ publisher, Eugen Spitzweg of the Jos. Aibl Publishing Company, which eventually printed the set in 1887 with a dedication to the “Royal Bavarian Chamber Singer Heinrich Vogl”. Aunt Johanna had to content herself with the dedication of two of Strauss’ songs op. 15. Spitzweg had another shrewd idea, i.e. to have the songs’ lyrics translated into English in a metric version, suitable for singing. He had intuited the songs’ potential for making the young composer known in the English-speaking countries, and in particular in America, and wished to make the most out of this possibility. In the end, the bilingual edition had to wait until 1897, when it was Strauss’ fame which drew the English-speaking audience’s attention to his works rather than vice-versa; the publisher’s aim, at that point, was probably that of pocketing the American copyright for Strauss’ songs. The following year, 1898, Strauss abandoned his erstwhile publisher, after having issued with that company a last collection of songs, i.e. op. 37. In 1904, however, the Jos. Aibl Company produced an important collection of the more than 40 songs by Strauss they had published, as a homage to their cooperation, or, perhaps, as a last attempt to milk the composer’s fame. Strauss’ op. 10 comprises some beloved songs, such as Zueignung (“Dedication” or “Devotion”), Allerseelen and the enchanted Die Nacht. The importance of these youthful works within the framework of Strauss’ overall output is testified by the composer’s later orchestration of some of them, and by his recordings of the version with piano. These recordings, dating from just after World War I and from during World War II (i.e. more than forty years after their composition), bear witness to the composer’s enduring love for them. Some of these songs were in the repertoire of soprano Pauline de Ahna, who became Mrs Strauss in 1894. The composer’s Vier Lieder op. 27 were in fact intended as a wedding present for her: whilst three out of the four were written some time earlier, the last to be completed (Cäcilie, on lyrics celebrating the poet’s own wife) was finished at the very eve of their wedding. In this case, the lyrics are selected by Strauss from works by several authors; the cycle’s cohesion is due to its organic musical concept and to the consistent emotional/affective itinerary it builds. The cycle opens with a Lied on words by Karl Henckell, inviting a restless soul to get quieter – perhaps alluding to the composer’s own spirit. The following two songs, on lyrics by Heinrich Hart and John Henry Mackay respectively, depict the impassionate love of young couples, whilst Morgen!, again on lyrics by Mackay, is a promise of happiness, fittingly offered to the bride at the beginning of their life together. Morgen! is one of Strauss’ best-known Lieder, also thanks to the multiple versions he realized of it, in particular with the presence of enchanted violin solos. Spitzweg’s Jos. Aibl Company published also this collection, but dismembering it into four separate booklets. This can be seen as an outrageous insult against the cycle’s organic concept, but also as another shrewd idea by Spitzweg, who thus multiplied the sales and the composer’s fame. Here too, moreover, the songs were reissued in a bilingual edition in 1897. The above-mentioned interruption of Strauss’ cooperation with Spitzweg would later be due to controversies about rights. These issues are at the very foundation of the last cycle recorded here, Der Krämerspiegel op. 66, dating from 1918. At that time, Strauss had been procrastinating for a longish time the composition of six songs he had contractually promised to the publishing house Bote & Bock. He felt vexed by their insistence, particularly when they threatened a lawsuit. In order to avoid a process, Strauss eventually complied, but in a very devious fashion. He asked a satirical lyricist to write salacious poems, where wordplays abound, on how music publishers fed on the composers’ work. (Strauss had been very much involved in these matters also on the political plane). The result of their cooperation was a collection of songs which were practically unpublishable, since they invited laughter on the publishing house’s founders (since the very first poems) and on the publishing market in general. Furthermore, Strauss put every care in order to make the cycle as little palatable as possible in the eyes of performers and audience alike, while still inserting some magnificent moments in it. Obviously, Bote & Bock denied publication to the manuscript, which was later printed in a limited, autographed edition with an illustrated frontispiece. But Strauss had had his Pyrrhic victory: a song cycle which virtually nobody performs and very few know of. This is therefore a particularly welcome possibility to hear it and judge it, with the benefit of hindsight, on its own artistic terms, rather than in the heated terms of a controversy which is more than a century old.
Chiara Bertoglio © 2022
Born in Seoul, Joo Cho graduated at the “Verdi” Conservatory in Milan and she continued her studies with Peter Schreier and Helmut Deutsch. She has won several International competitions: among them, the “Giulio Neri” Singing Competition in Torrita di Siena (Italy) and the “Haverhill Sinfonia Soloist Competition” (UK). She has performed operas, oratorios and sacred music in venues such as: Opera House in Seoul, Tiroler Festspiele Erl, Auditorio Nacional in Madrid, Teatro Comunale in Modena, Auditorium della Conciliazione in Rome, Teatro degli Arcimboldi in Milan, Sala Verdi at the Milan Conservatory, Teatro Sociale in Rovigo, Milan Cathedral, Teatro Vittorio Emanuele in Messina, Teatro Regio in Parma. She has sung under Gustav Kuhn, Donato Renzetti, Flavio Emilio Scogna, Romano Gandolfi, John Anderson, Christopher Fifield, Carlo Frajese. Among her performances: La Traviata by Verdi, La Bohème by Puccini, Così fan tutte and Die Zauberflöte by Mozart, Der Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal by Wagner, Messa da Requiem by Verdi, Exsultate, jubilate by Mozart, 4th Symphony by Mahler, Requiem by Mozart, Les Illuminations by Britten, Betulia liberata by Mozart, Stabat mater by Rossini, Mirjams Siegesgesang by Schubert.
Joo Cho is very interested in Lied repertoire and she has sung Lied Concerts in Palacio Marqués de Salamanca in Madrid, Musée Debussy in Paris, Musée Würth in Strasbourg, Festival MiTo in Milan, Salone del Conservatorio in Turin, Großer Saal der Musikhochschule in Lübeck, Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, Charterhouse in Godalming, Hayward Theatre in Ely, Sala della musica in Lugano, Museum of Art National University in Seoul. She has often sung twentieth century and contemporary music: she performed world premieres by Giacomo Manzoni, Adriano Guarnieri, Vladimir Rannev, Luca Francesconi, Yotam Haber, Stefano Gervasoni, Alessandro Solbiati, Nicola Sani and many others. She sang the posthumous world premiere of Sette by Niccolò Castiglioni (Passionspielhaus in Erl, under Tito Ceccherini) and the Japanese premiere of Il rumore del tempo by Manzoni (Suntory Hall in Tokyo, with members of the Ensemble Intercontemporain). In 2015 she performed La fabbrica illuminata by Luigi Nono in Milan (Musica/Realtà), on the 25th death anniversary of the composer.
She has recorded for labels Bongiovanni, Col legno, Limen, Classica Viva.
Italian pianist Marino Nahon graduated at the “Verdi” Conservatory in Milan; he continued his studies with Piero Rattalino, Michele Fedrigotti and Pietro Soraci, and he attended masterclasses with Paul Badura-Skoda, Dalton Baldwin, Bruno Canino, Phillip Moll, Antonio Ballista, Irwin Gage, Alexander Lonquich.
He has performed as a soloist, as a chamber musician and as a Lied accompanist in various concert halls in Italy (Turin: Sala 500 del Lingotto, Salone del Conservatorio; Rome: Sala Baldini, Villa Torlonia; Parma: Casa della Musica; Genoa: Palazzo Ducale; Orvieto: Teatro Mancinelli; Modena: GMI; Naples: Fondazione Humaniter; Venice: Palazzo Albrizzi; Alessandria: Auditorium Pittaluga; Milan: Sala Verdi and Sala Puccini of the Conservatory, Festival MiTo, Società dei Concerti, Milano Classica, Musica/Realtà), in France (Paris: “Atelier Concerts”, Musée Debussy; Aix-en-Provence: “Concerts d'Aix”; Nice: Auditorium Nucéra), in Switzerland (Geneva: Concerts d’été en Vieille-Ville), in UK (Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespeare Institute; Godalming: Charterhouse; Ely: Hayward Theatre; Colchester: University of Essex), in USA (San Francisco: Italian Cultural Institute), in Japan (Kyoto: Fumin Hall ALTI; Kumagaya: Sakuramate Theatre), in South Korea (Seoul: Museum of Art National University), in Taiwan (Taipei: National Theatre), in Turkey (Ankara: Hacettepe University Concert Hall). In 2018 he gave a solo recital at the Museo Teatrale alla Scala in Milan, on the piano once owned by Franz Liszt.
He is also an active performer of twentieth century and contemporary music, and he played, in first performances, works by Vladimir Rannev, Yotam Haber, Adriano Guarnieri, Stefano Gervasoni, Dario Maggi, Osvaldo Coluccino, Corrado Rojac, Alessandra Ciccaglioni, Alessandro Melchiorre, Giovanni Damiani, Gabriele Cosmi, Rocco Abate, Luca Cori, Sonia Bo, Gabriele Manca, Giuliano Zosi, Nicola Sani and others.
He has studied composition with Bruno Zanolini at the Milan Conservatory and musicology with Emilio Sala at the Università degli studi of Milan, where he graduated: he is the author of several musicological essays, which appeared in magazines such as «Musica e Storia» and «Musicalia – Annuario internazionale di studi musicologici».
Richard Strauss (b Munich, 11 June 1864; d Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 8 Sept 1949). German composer and conductor. He emerged soon after the deaths of Wagner and Brahms as the most important living German composer. During an artistic career which spanned nearly eight decades, he composed in virtually all musical genres, but became best known for his tone poems (composed during the closing years of the 19th century) and his operas (from the early decades of the 20th). Coming of age as a composer at a time when the duality of bourgeois and artist had become increasingly problematic, Strauss negotiated the worlds of art and society with a remarkable combination of candour and irony. Averse to the metaphysics of Wagner and indifferent to Mahler's philosophical intentions in music, he exploited instead the paradoxes, inconsistencies and potential profundities to be found in modern, everyday life. The new possibilities he envisioned for music were exemplified in the eclecticism of the opera Der Rosenkavalier, whose juxtaposition of contemporary with intentionally anachronistic elements creates a stylistic pluralism that adumbrates subsequent experimentation of the later 20th century.