Komm mit mir! • Come with me!
“Music as if from a volcano! Mathilde Kralik von Meyrswalden must indeed have had a volcanic temperament … whoever heard it won’t forget it anytime soon.” —Petra Diederichs; Rheinische Post, July 3, 2007
Given such enthusiastic critical response to Austrian composer Mathilde von Kralik (1857-1944), as well as the excellence of the works recorded here, it would indeed seem that a reassessment of her reputation and restoration of her music to modern performers’ repertoires is long overdue.
A noble heritage
Born (Dec. 3, 1857) into a highly cultured and musically accomplished upper-class family, she took on the “official” full name of Mathilde Aloisia Kralik von Meyrswalden after the Austrian Emperor elevated her father, a wealthy Bohemian industrialist, to the minor nobility as Wilhelm Kralik Ritter von Meyrswalden. Louise, her mother, provided her early piano training; and the entire family made music at home together. After moving to Vienna in 1870, Mathilde’s parents saw to it that their precocious daughter studied with the very finest musical pedagogues — including private counterpoint lessons with Anton Bruckner, who was later one of her professors after she was admitted to the Vienna Conservatory in 1876. While there, she became a part of the musical circle that included Gustav Mahler.
After completing her formal studies there with great distinction in just two years, Mathilde and her older brother and champion, Richard – a noted poet, philosopher and cultural historian – soon rose to the forefront of Vienna’s artistic life. She was particularly close to Richard, as reflected in the fact that 17 of this album’s 26 selections are settings of his poetry. Despite being trapped in an era of pervasive, male-dominated artistic chauvinism, Mathilde soon established her reputation as a pianist and composer of particular ability. The siblings’ regular musical and literary “salons” consistently attracted the city’s intelligentsia and artistic elite. Even Eduard Hanslick, the notoriously vicious Viennese critic, found Mathilde to be “…a genuine, original talent which …holds great promise for the future.”
While she composed in multiple genres, she was best known during her lifetime for her smaller-scale works like Lieder, piano and chamber music, and sacred choral pieces. Her larger-scale works were seldom heard, one exception being her fairy-tale opera, Blume und Weiβblume: one of her three works in that genre (an aria from it is included in this program). She remained musically active throughout her long life, though her deeply romantic style went out of fashion as the twentieth century unfolded.
Romantic to the core…
While the Kralik family’s deep Roman Catholic faith was one of the predominant overall themes of both Mathilde’s and Richard’s work, the 25 art songs (and single aria) heard here are not overtly religious in nature or purpose, though there are several instances of distinctly spiritual mood and symbolism. Instead, they are unabashedly, even intensely romantic in nature, encompassing a wide range of classic themes and symbols: romantic love (of course), the elusive “blaue Blume” (blue flower), the isolated “wanderer,” and the manifold beauties of nature and its creatures. Her music – with its stimulating blend of sophistication and passion – is the perfect vehicle for her brother’s heady, yet heartfelt verses. A touching aside: the “Maja songs” in the track listings come from three volumes of love poems inspired by Maja Flattich, who became Richard’s wife. In fact, “Komm mit Mir,” the title song, was Richard’s actual musical marriage proposal to Maja.
The remaining poets whose verses are set here – and the corresponding music – are fairly similar in nature, with like-toned romantic moods, themes and devices. The work of two other excellent male poets is represented: that of Edmund Schwab and the more famous Ludwig Uhland. It’s hardly surprising that Mathilde – ever seeking opportunities to showcase the work of others of her gender – chose to set the verses of accomplished women poets as well. Three of them are represented in this album: Irene Zoepf, Adrienne Sarold (both obscure) and the better-known Enrica Handel.
Musical dynamism and delicacy…
Even in some of the remarkable songs heard here, the listener will agree with the above-excerpted review describing Mathilde’s music as “volcanic.” We hear many instances of bold sound, energetic drive and stormy dramatic intensity. Yet – often even in the same song – she shifts almost seamlessly into contrasting delicacy, lyricism, tender emotion, playful whimsy, or intuitive inwardness. Her inexhaustible gift for gorgeous melody and ingenious harmony is immediately apparent. She cultivates a lush richness in many of her songs that recalls the opulent styles of composers like Mahler and Richard Strauss, while maintaining a strong degree of originality. Her beautifully crafted piano accompaniments confirm her ability to illuminate and amplify her chosen texts with skill, sensitivity and almost Schubertian levels of spontaneity and impressionistic tone-painting – and their frequently virtuosic demands stand as firm evidence of Mathilde’s own considerable keyboard prowess.
- Komm mit mir! • Come with me! (2:30)
- Hundertausend Liederkeime • One hundred thousand seeds of songs (:55)
- Silbernebel • Silver Mist (3:20)
- Flieder • Lilacs (1:59)
- Veilchen • Violets (1:28)
- Himmelschlüssel • Keys of Heaven (1:38)
- Abends • Evenings (2:48)
- Götter, Helden und Minne • Gods, Heroes and Courtly Love (2:11)
- Ein neuer Frühling • A New Spring (1:32)
- Spriesse, Seele! • Spring forth, Soul! (1:32)
- Mein ganzes Sein • My Entire Being (1:37)
- Und wieder blüht der helle Hag • And Again Blooms the Bright Meadow (1:30)
- Übermut • High Spirits (:57)
- Im Prater • At the Prater (1:49)
- Zauberrunen • Magic Runes (1:36)
- Lache, Kind! • Laugh, Child! (:58)
- Du bist mein • You are mine (1:50)
- Ich bin nur ich • I am only me (1:57)
- Sage, Sonne, wo sie nun ist • Tell me sun, where she is now (:46)
- Fragezeichen • Question Mark (2:19)
- Ein Traum • A Dream (1:54)
- Im Grünen • In the Woods (1:32)
- Lied des Gefangenen • Song of the Prisoner (1:40)
- Nacht ist’s • It is Night (2:40)
- Singet leiser o Cicaden! • Sing softly, O Cicadas! (1:55)
- Arie des Rekared aus der Oper „Blume und Weissblume“ • Aria of Rekared from the Opera Flower and White Flower (4:44)