Friday, April 22, 2016

Alma Mahler's art songs with piano

I was not as aware as I should be of Alma Mahler (Gustav Mahler’s beloved wife) as a composer. But there are numerous recordings of some of her songs.  This set on YT (around 1910, shortly before the famous husband’s death), performed by Angelika Kirschlanger (soprano), Helmut Deutsch piano, comprises five songs: ‘The Silent City”; “In my Father’s Garden”; “Balmy Summer Night”; “With You It Is Familiar”; “I Wander Among Flowers”.

Note the hyperchromatic opening of the first song, with a signature of D Minor;  composers could study the structures of the succeeding chords, which almost suggest Scriabin. The second song is the longest, a a rather episodic almost sonata-like movement in A-flat, venturing to many remote keys.

 This song builds up to the last three, which are miniatures, in A Major, D Major, and C Major respectively.  All the songs end quietly, as do most art songs.  In general, the composition style, to my ear, somewhat resembles her husband's later works.

Alma would later marry Walter Gropius and then novelist Franz Werfel.

I do remember, besides Mahler's "The Song of the Earth", the cycle "Kindertotenlieder", which I had in a Vox Box set with Horenstein for years. My parents thought that the translation of the title "Songs of the Death of Children", was morbid.

Post script: Yes, I am enjoying recalling Prince's "Purple Rain" today.  I lived in Minneapolis from 1997-2003 so this strikes closer to past homes.

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