KINKEL: An Imaginary Voyage through Europe. 32 Songs

While the idea of a trip through the Continent is not explicitly part of Kinkelís work, it offers some useful points of reference for listening to works that are essentially unknown, yet deserving attention. Moreover, the extensive notes by the soprano Ingrid Smith¸sen are a fine introduction to Kinkelís career.
From the works presented here, the music itself is engaging, with the songs found on this CD intriguing for their natural-sounding vocalism and well crafted accompaniments. Elements redolent of the folk idiom are part of some songs, while others suggest the influence of bel canto; elsewhere, as in ìAbschied von Italianî (op. 16, no 3), the music verges on a popular-sounding idiom that breaks free from some of the foursquare style of conventional Lieder. While the arrangement of the recording accentuates some of the national styles of the texts themselves, the music is not overtly nationalistic. Some formulations that connote Scottish lyricism are part of the ìAuld Rob Morris,î a setting of a folk text, as indicated in the liner notes. Yet the arrangement is a convenience for presenting this large selection of Kinkelís songs, rather than an attempt to lock her works into the sometimes artificial categories associated with musical nationalism. Instead, lyricism prevails throughout the songs, with accompaniments that support the vocal line. Her sense of rhythm and meter allows the texts to emerge clearly, with a natural declamation that stops short of the Angst that would emerge in the Lieder of the latter part of the nineteenth century.
As much as it is possible to enjoy songs associated with the Rhine, Spain, Italy, Scotland, and France, other themes are included, like ìRevolution,î ìKinderland,î and ìGeisterwelt.î ìAuf, whole auf Ihr Condiotenî (op. 18, no. 3) is a kind of march-song that Smith¸sen included with ìDemokratenlied (a song without an opus designation) under the label ìRevolution.î These songs show Kinkel in a somewhat popular idiom that the texts certainly require. As to the texts, a number are by Kinkel herself, with some by her second husband Gottfried Kinkel. Other songs make use of texts by poets who became associated with Lieder, like Heinrich Heine and Adalbert von Chamisso. As Smith¸sen mentions in her notes, Kinkel was part of Bettina von Arminís salon, where she met such individuals as Chamisso. In fact, some details of her life reveal how closely Kinkel was associated with some of the more important figures of her day.
The performances on this recording are laudable for various reasons, not the least is the interpretations that are persuasive enough to suggest rehearing some of the selections. Smith¸sen is a fine interpreter of these Lieder, with her focused and expressive voice shaping each of the songs with the individuality the music requires. Smith¸sen is effective because of her ability to bring out details, without relying on histrionics or other elements that are not idiomatic. At the same time, the accompaniments by Thomas Palm support Smith¸sen throughout the recording. The use of fortepiano is fitting, and while its lighter sound may be jarring upon hearing the first selections, it proves to be a fine means of allowing the vocal lines to emerge clearly. The recording captures the nuanced sounds of the fortepiano well. Palm is a sensitive accompanist, and his ability to support some of the more overtly demonstrative songs, like ìThurm und Fluthî (op. 19, no. 6) is welcome.
Those unfamiliar with Kinkel will find this recording to be an excellent introduction to her music. At the same time, this CD expands the world of Lieder in the first half of the nineteenth century. Her music is certainly appealing enough to stand alongside some of the other figures of the time. Those who want to fuller image of music-making in the first half of the nineteenth century may find some insights in exploring Kinkelís work. More than that, the music itself is evidence of the composerís talent and accomplishments.
James L. Zychowicz

image_description=Johanna Kinkel: An Imaginary Voyage through Europe. 32 Songs
product_title=Johanna Kinkel: An Imaginary Voyage through Europe. 32 Songs
product_by=Ingrid Schmith¸sen, soprano, Thomas Palm, fortepiano.
product_id=CPO 777 140-2 [CD]