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Lieder by Max Kowalski / Wolfgang Holzmair, baritone

Notes & Reviews:

Max Kowalski, who lived and practiced law in Frankfurt am Main, was from 1913 till 1933 a well-known, much esteemed, and frequently performed composer. Kowalski was born in Poland (then Russia) on August 10th, 1882 and grew up in Germany, to which his parents emigrated when he was a year old. Kowalski's reputation rests on his production of more than two hundred art songs, which have been in the repertoire of many leading artists, including Heinrich Schlusnus, Maria Ivogün, Paul Bender, Joseph Schwarz, Alexander Kipnis, Karen Branzell, and Hans Hotter. The present CD is drawn from a recital sung in 2011 in Munich by the great Austrian baritone, Wolfgang Holzmair. It offers two song cycles and songs composed to texts by some of Germany's leading poets. The CD includes Kowalski's best-known cycle, his Pierrot Lunaire, which appeared the same year (1913) as Arnold Schoenberg's settings.

America Record Guide, November/December 2015

America Record Guide, November/December 2015
Kowalski wrote more than 200 songs. Some sources put his output as high as 250. I found these songs so engaging that I am surprised how seldom they are heard. Kowalski had a fine gift for melody... Holzmair brings this music to life exceedingly well, eliciting detail with wit and alacrity. The distinct slightly pinched edginess of his timbre serves these songs well. Lindquist is an adept partner. The sound quality is clear and vivid, slightly favoring the voice.


An attractive program
I was not familiar with the music of Max Kowalski before listening to this new release. Kowalski was a mainly self-taught singer and composer (primarily of lieder), though professionally he was a lawyer. He survived Buchenwald, and died in London in 1956, a well-respected singing teacher and composer.

Kowalski's output is almost exclusively lieder, and stylistically remains grounded in the early post-romantic aesthetic of the early 20th Century.

This new release from Bridge doesn't just feature a Kowalski program; it's a recording of a concert baritone Wolfgang Holzmair performed in 2011 for a Max Kowalski symposium.

As he explains in the liner notes, the selection and sequencing of the lieder is of paramount importance, grouping similar works together. The emotional center of the concert (and this recording) is Pierrot Lunaire, which Kowalski completed the same year as Schoenberg's settings.

While Schoenberg set the unsettling imagery of the text to equally unsettled music, Kowalski remains firmly within tonal limits. And yet his version of Pierrot Lunaire is also exotic and unsettling in its own way.

Wolfgang Holzmair has a warm, rich baritone that seems well-suited to the repertoire. Kowalski was an intuitive melodist, and Holzmair's fluid delivery retains some of the spontaneous nature of the music.

Highly recommended for aficionados of lieder.

Submitted on 08/19/15 by RGraves321 
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