Gesänge des Orients
Nimbus NI5971

Simon Wallfisch, baryton
Edward Rushton, piano
6 July 2018




One of the central tropes in rman poetry from the eighteenth century onwards was its sustained fascination with all things connected to the Orient. The lure of the mythical and exotic East, vaguely allied to different countries and regions that were geographically far removed from Central Europe, cast an almost transcendental spell over generations of important writers. By the 1830s Oriental Studies flourished in several German universities and a number of prominent academics were engaged upon translating into German vast swathes of poetry from the East. Orientalism also increasingly caught the popular imagination through clothes, décor and furnishings. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, preoccupations with the exotic noticeably shifted eastwards from Germany to Austria. Given the febrile artistic climate in the turn-of-the-century Vienna, it is hardly surprising that composers living and working there also succumbed to the fashion for Orientalism. [Erik Levi] Supressed music (or 'Entartete Musik' or 'Verfemte Musik'), music and musicians smeared by the Nazis' dark, ideologically-motivated hatred, has developed into an artificial genre of its own, throwing together composers of completely different musical backgrounds and, it must be said, varying degrees of quality, into the same bucket. This must change. We risk missing the true qualities, nuances and pedigree of individual composers' voices, as well as the cultural preoccupations that united them (as in the case of this CD, the common fascination in the early twentieth century with translations of Chinese and Persian poetry). The deliberate inclusion of Richard Strauss (whose political allegiances are questionable), is because I wish the listener to hear beyond the names, beyond the painful historical facts and savour the incredible sound world created by these musical cousins. It is my wish that, by presenting all of these neglected composers as equals, we can begin to restore them to their rightful place, where they belonged all along, in our collective musical Consciousness. [Simon Wallfisch]