The Songs of Thomas de Hartmann

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The series of CD releases of the music of Thomas de Hartmann is largely the work of The Thomas de Hartmann Project, a group of dedicated volunteers and individuals joined by the common goal of bringing Thomas de Hartmann’s music to public attention. The primary aim of The Thomas de Hartmann Project is to make publicly available the compositions of Thomas de Hartmann; today a music as strangely inaudible as the composer is invisible, outside small groups familiar with de Hartmann's musical collaborations with G.I. Gurdjieff. Robert Fripp

De Hartmann’s output as a composer included four symphonies, several operas, concertos, sonatas, and songs with texts by Marcel Proust, Paul Verlaine, James Joyce, and Percy Bysshe Shelley, as well as fifty-three film scores. By his early twenties he was one of the best-known living composers in all of Russia. His music was enthusiastically supported by performers and conductors such as Leopold Stokowski, Eugène Bigot, Pablo Casals, Paul Tortelier, and Jean-Pierre Rampal. The fragmented path his life was to follow brought him into direct contact with some of the most intriguing personalities of the century. The turbulent historical events through which he lived may, however, have kept de Hartmann’s music from reaching a wider audience. With the de Hartmann papers now widely available for scholarly examination, the opportunity is ripe for a new look at this composer’s unique contributions.




These excellent recordings are now re-released on the Nimbus label, with well documented booklets and in this case most of the sung texts printed and translated into English.

Swedish soprano Nina Lejderman has a beautiful voice, and the often quite restrained character of her singing suits de Hartmann's lyrical style very well indeed. The earlier songs are romantic in style and superbly crafted… There is indeed some mystic power in the Three Poems by Shelly Op. 52, sung here with more operatic forcefulness by Claron McFadden, "the raw expression of a man who would not be deluded by contemporary ideas of religion and morality."

There is subtle, sophisticated simplicity alongside remarkable colour and depth here, and even at his most romantic de Hartmann manages to avoid overt sentimentality. Sharpness of contrast can be found between the Pushkin settings and the Six Commentaries from 'Ulysses' by James Joyce Op. 71…

…There is some stunningly beautiful music here, and the Eclogue is sublime. The whole programme finishes with a vocal quartet, La Tramuntana or 'across the mountains', the title referring to "a North wind [that] makes a continuous howling noise, which is said to have a disturbing effect on the psyche", though the piece itself is actually quite restrained in character.

Very well recorded, superbly performed and full of strikingly well composed songs, this is a collection that deserves its place on every collector's shelf, of this or any genre. Thomas de Hartmann refused to enter the world of the avant-garde but he didn't need to - his ideas were strong enough to carry their own identity, and the inspiration he drew from the poems and texts in this well-filled programme certainly created a powerful symbiosis.

Music Web International – Classical Review

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