In Relations
Eva Zalenga (soprano), Doriana Tchakarova (piano)
rec. 2023, Schloss Filseck, Germany
German texts included.
Hänssler Classic HC22050 [57]

The back page of the booklet that comes with this CD has a complicated diagram, which attempts to display and unravel the various connections between the composers and poets featured in this recital. We all know about the friendship that existed between Mendelssohn and Schumann, but did you know that Loewe, who also made music with Mendelssohn, taught the composer Emilie Mayer, who set poems by Heine, as of course did Loewe and Schumann. So did Meyerbeer, though his only connection with Mendelssohn and Schumann is that they both were vocal in disparaging his music.

The aim is evidently to bring some unity to what is essentially a recital of nineteenth century Romantic songs by both male and female composers, most of which are not exactly regular visitors to the concert platform. It’s a nice idea and it can be fun trying to trace the connections between the various personages represented in this recital, though certainly not necessary for the enjoyment of it.

We begin with Meyerbeer, who is better known for his large-scale operas, none of which have ever held much interest for me. The three songs we get here are rather charming and tuneful, though they don’t quite escape the epithet of parlour music. These are followed by a couple of songs by Loewe, the first a setting of Meine Ruh ist hin, a poem better known to us as Schubert’s Gretchen am Spinnrade. Loewe’s setting is less grippingly intense but it does tell the story well.. Loewe’s accompaniments are worth noting and they are brilliantly played by Doriana Tchakarova, who supports her soloist at every turn.

Mendelssohn’s Hexenlied is better known than the songs we have heard so far and it really calls for a little more variety of timbre than Zalenga has yet at her disposal.  On the other hand Zalenga’s bright, youthful soprano is perfectly apt for the Suleika songs that follow. The Schumann songs go well too, though I would have preferred a little more sense of breathless excitement in Aufträge, such as we hear in older versions by Elisabeth Schumann and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.

For the rest we are given some rarities by women composers, both of whom were entirely new to me. Emilie Mayer, who died in 1883 (not 1833 as the booklet has it) was the first woman to have her symphonies performed all over Europe. The two songs included here no doubt had an eye on the popular publication market and, like the Meyerbeer, have more than a whiff of the salon about them. Nonetheless I was pleased to make their acquaintance. That said, I found the Heine settings of the English composer, Frances Illitsen, even more interesting. All three are worth investigating, in particular the setting of Heine’s Katherine, which is a gloriously outpouring of lyrical melody.

This recital would appear to be the recording debut of the young soprano Eva Zalenga. She has a lovely, light soprano which faintly reminded me of the young Lucia Popp. I see from her website that her operatic roles are Papagena, Barbarina, Susanna, Ännchen, and also Sophie in Werther, all of which would seem right for her at the moment. I can also imagine her making an excellent Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier. As yet the voice doesn’t have a great range of colour at its disposal, but this does not mean she sings without feeling. Throughout she is a most musical singer and keenly responsive to the poetry. You really feel she connects with each of the songs.

I wish Hänssler had vouchsafed us translations of the German texts, but, nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this journey through some of the byways of nineteenth century Romantic song. An auspicious recording debut for Eva Zalenga.

Philip Tsaras

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Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864)
Carl Loewe (1796 – 1869)
Meine Ruh’ ist hin, Op. 9, no. 2
Die verliebte Schläferin, Op. 9, no. 3
Ihr Spaziergang, Op. 9, no.4
Die Schneeflocke, Op. 63, no. 1
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Hexenlied, Op 8, no. 8
Suleika, Op. 57, no.3
Suleika, Op. 34, no. 4
Die Nonne, Op. 9 no. 12
Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856)
Liebeslied, Op. 5, no. 5
Aufträge, Op. 77, no. 5
Viel Glück zur Reise, Schwalben! Op. 104, no. 2
Die letzten Blumen starben, Op. 104, no. 6
Aus den östlichen Rosen, Op. 25, no. 5
Singet nicht in Trauertönen, Op. 98a
Emilie Mayer (1812 – 1883)
Du bist wie eine Blume, Op. 71 no. 1
Das Schlüsselloch im Herzen
Frances Allitsen (1848 – 1912)
Mag, da draußen Schnee sich thürmen
Die Botschaft