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A slightly tangential choice next, in a new recording based around Schoenberg’s orchestral tone poem Verklärte Nacht, composed in 1899 and revised into a string sextet in 1917, then tinkered with afterwards, given here in a version from 1943. It was inspired by Richard Dehmel’s poem Weib und Welt, whose frank exploration of female sexuality led to him being tried for obscenity and blasphemy. It is, indeed, torrid stuff. Lesser-known composer Oskar Fried set some of the text to music in 1901 and it is truly gorgeous, with luscious harmonies and sinuous vocal lines; mezzo Christine Rice and tenor Stuart Skelton almost melt the speakers. Skelton starts the album with another truly remarkable piece, a tone poem by Lehár, and if you thought that composer was all feathered hats and champagne you are in for a surprise. Fieber (Fever) is a 1915 work about a hospitalised soldier who sings of his love for both mother and girlfriend, and his memories of war. It gives the orchestra a workout, with its constantly shifting keys, moods and times – from waltz to military bugle – and I don’t know why it is not a more popular piece with tenors. Skelton certainly relishes the opportunities his 12 minutes afford him. He also sings Korngold’s Lieder des Abschieds (Songs of Farewell), cut from a slightly less interesting cloth, although the third, ‘Mond, so gehst du wieder auf’ reminds me of the later opera Das Wunder der Heliane. Not only the singers enjoy their challenge, but conductor Edward Gardner extracts maximum juice from each score.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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