The Last Epiphany
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Deutsche Volkslieder
Norbert Glanzberg (1910-2001)
In Memoriam – Holocaust Lieder
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Abendstern D. 806
Thilo Dahlmann (bass-baritone), Hedayet Jonas Djeddikar (piano)
rec. 2022, Studio TONAL at Atelier Pfaffendorf, Austria
German texts enclosed
Reviewed as download from press preview
Challenge Classics CC72934 [71]

Bass-baritone Thilo Dahlmann came to my knowledge some years ago when I reviewed his debut CD, a Schubert recital (review). Since then his voice has darkened further while his ability to soften his singing and find subtle nuances has further developed. Now in his late forties, he is a fully fledged Lieder artist, and it was a pleasure to hear him again. His singing is rather robust and straight-forward, very expressive but – as I said – also very nuanced. The programme is an interesting juxtaposition of some of Johannes Brahms’s Deutsche Volkslieder with Norbert Glanzberg’s Holocaust Lieder.

I first learnt the Brahms songs through the classic EMI recording by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with Gerald Moore at the piano, which I bought in the 1960s and still treasure. I have their highly sophisticated readings imprinted in my musical memory forever. Thilo Dahlmann’s approach is very different: down-to-earth and, dare I call it, rural as opposed to Schwarzkopf and Fischer-Dieskau’s urban attitude; their approach belongs in gilded salons while Dahlmann is in the middle of nature. His darkish timbre and slightly rough tone seems to grow out of the soil, but it blossoms with the same splendour in the outdoor atmosphere. Just listen to the lovely Mein Mädel hat einen Rosenmund (track 2), sung with exquisite rubato and beautiful pianissimo. There is rhythmic élan and joy in the more outgoing songs, like Es wohnet ein Fiedler zu Frankfurt am Main (track 12), while the more intimate songs show great warmth. Es steht ein’ Lind (track 8), In stiller Nacht (track 13) and the concluding Da unten im Tale (track 16) are so lovingly sung.

The 16 songs recorded here are about one third of the total number; they were chosen as they can “embody the greatest possible innocence and impartiality in text and music”, as Dahlmann and Djeddikar write in the foreword. They continue: “It is precisely this contrast that illustrates in our eyes the breaking of human and civilisational culture through the horrors of the Holocaust. A “break-up” that Norbert Glanzberg has masterfully set to music in his cycle ‘In Memoriam’.”

Glanzberg may need a brief introduction. He was born in Lemberg to Jewish parents, but the family moved to Würzburg the year after his birth and there he got a solid classical training. In the early 1930s he was hired by UFA to write film music but in 1933 when Hitler came to power he emigrated to France. There he appeared with Edith Piaf and Django Reinhardt and wrote popular songs – Piaf’s Padam, Padam was his music. After the war he wrote more film music but in the 1980s he returned to the classical camp, and it was then that he discovered an anthology of poems by mostly persecuted, imprisoned and murdered artists of Jewish extraction. These are deeply moving texts, some of them written in “The waiting-room of Death”.  Reading the poems and hearing them sung is a very strong mental experience that evokes sorrow, anger, desperation, resignation. Considering the present political situation with the illegitimate Russian attack on Ukraine, the songs are a gruesome reminder that evil hovers over us wherever we are. May we never forget that!

“The music is easy to take to one’s heart. It is written in a late-romantic idiom that should pose no problems for listeners with little experience of ‘modern’ music. Schumann and Brahms with a pinch of Richard Strauss and a smattering of Weill and Eisler provide the roots, but Glanzberg’s melodic prowess is distinctively his own – and very attractive too. Like the poems themselves the music differs greatly from song to song.”

The above quotation is from a review I wrote almost fifteen years ago of a previous recording of these songs. The full review can be found here. On that recording Roman Trekel sings the Holocaust Lieder with orchestral accompaniments by Daniel Klajner written in 2001, encouraged by the composer, who unfortunately didn’t live long enough to hear them. Dahlmann and Djeddikar perform them in the original version and in another order than Trekel. This means that they are not quite comparable alternatives. I have long admired Trekel’s singing, and did so also here, even though I found him a little drier in tone than before. Dahlmann with his darker, larger and somewhat rougher tone becomes even more ominous, and, in the horribly frightening Der Ofen von Lublin (track 22), heartbreaking. Elsewhere, he is just as warm and nuanced and moving as in the Brahms songs. Alter Baum (track 20) is sung with the utmost simplicity, which makes it all the more gripping. The same goes for the lullaby Lied zur guten Nacht. The concluding song An die Völker der Erde (To the Peoples of the Earth) – the text written in 1945, directly after the end of the war – is an appeal to the world to conciliate after the atrocities of the past six years. The final words ‘Freedom! Shalom!’ Were not in the original poem; probably they were added by Glanzberg himself.

As an appendix Thilo Dahlmann and Hedayet Jonas Djeddikar perform Schubert’s Abendstern as a further conciliation. The well-filled disc is a thought-provoking juxtaposition of light and shade, of joy and horror. I urge readers to give it a thought, so valuable in the world today.

Göran Forsling

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Johannes Brahms
Deutsche Volkslieder WoO 33
[1] All mein Gedanken, No. 30 2:13
[2] Mein Mädel hat einen Rosenmund, No. 25 1:55
[3] Feinsliebchen, No. 12 3:04
[4] Jungfräulein, soll ich mit Euch gehen, No. 11 2:20
[5] Die Sonne scheint nicht mehr, No. 5 1:17
[6] Erlaube mir, feins Mädchen, No. 2 1:26
[7] Sagt mir, o schönste Schäf´rin mein, No. 1 2:27
[8] Es steht ein Lind´, No. 41 2:27
[9] Gar lieblich hat sich gesellet, No. 3 1:34
[10] Sonntag, Op. 47, No. 3 1:41
[11] Wach auf, Mein´ Herzensschöne, No. 16 1:50
[12] Es wohnet ein Fiedler zu Frankfurt am Main, No. 36 1:28
[13] In stiller Nacht, No. 42 2:48
[14] Ach Gott, wie weh tut scheiden, No. 17 2:07
[15] Soll sich der Mond nicht heller scheinen, No. 35 2:43
[16] Da unten im Tale, No. 6 2:05
Norbert Glanzberg (1910-2001)
In Memoriam – Holocaust Lieder
[17] Im Gefängnis 2:07
[18] Abschied 3:54
[19] Für Ule 2:21
[20] Alter Baum 4:03
[21] Nachtgedanken 2:34
[22] Der Ofen von Lublin 3:11
[23] Versprich mir eins 3:49
[24] Die letzte Epiphanie 2:41
[25] Lied zur guten Nacht 3:47
[26] Greta 3:26
[27] An die Völker der Erde 3:18
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
[28] Abendstern D. 806 2:28