Youthful, optimistic, with a positive outlook on life: this is how we imagine Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Aribert Reimann took a closer look and formed a completely different picture of Mendelssohn. The title of his collection of songs by the genial early romanticist is a quotation from one of the Heine texts set by Mendelssohn and quite significantly refers to death: “... oder soll es Tod bedeuten?” Christiane Oelze teams up with the Leipzig String Quartet on this moving and unsettling program reflecting an existential experience of life covering the entire spectrum of the romantic emotional world.
The very first verse heard on this CD, “Leise zieht durch mein Gemüt liebliches Geläute,” captures the essence of romanticism. The program ranging from “Auf Flügeln des Gesanges” to “Was will die einsame Träne?” then goes on to include familiar and less familiar songs. In his quartet version Reimann focuses on musical nuances; flageolets, sul ponticello playing, and col legno shape the character of the music while supplying fragile tones. The six freely composed intermezzi connecting the eight songs comment on Heine’s ambivalent poems, employing them as interpretive points of departure and points of return.
Much later than Mendelssohn Johannes Brahms set five songs by Ophelia from the fourth act of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Greatly reduced musical means depict the gradual development of madness in Hamlet’s female beloved. Aribert Reimann’s quartet version intensifies the impression of fragile forsakenness – gripping simplicity that goes straight to the heart! Robert Schumann also opens his op. 107 cycle with the ill-fated dreamer Ophelia but then happily comes up with a comforting and conciliatory ending in the “Evening Song.”
The two “Death Chorales” Schumann managed to commit to paper at the Endenich Sanatorium serve Reimann as the source for a special homage to this great romanticist. In the “Adagio in Memory of Robert Schumann” the honoree’s yearning tone forms a remarkable symbiosis with current musical language; brusque accents and wild pizzicati abruptly interrupt wistful reminiscences of bygone times. The seeking spirit of the romantic era has only rarely been more grippingly reconfigured for modern times.