Olivia Vermeulen, Jan Philip Schulze: Hello Darkness - An ode to death in songs from Claudio Monteverdi to Billie Eilish

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Dedicating a CD to the dark side of the Lied might seem inappropriate in these times of Covid, climate change and refugee crises, but as a mezzo-soprano Olivia has always been drawn to the darker roles in opera, the sad arias in oratorio and the deep laments in song. After our recent recording (‘Dirty Minds’), which focused on ‘la petite mort’, it seemed a natural progression to turn our attention to ‘la grande mort’!

Darkness in the outside world and the inner self has always been – alongside Love – one of the chief themes of vocal music, and compositions and songs about death are legion during every period of musical history. The music on this recording is extremely diverse and we relished the idea of programming songs from different centuries in different styles and genres. We begin with a collection of songs about melancholia, inner abysses, longing for death and murderous lust. But the CD is also rich in songs about comfort and hope, light instead of despair – with lashings of black humour!

Composers down the ages have used innovative approaches to render the theme of death. Chromaticism is used tellingly by Monteverdi and Schubert. Duparc’s sensuous ‘Extase’ (1878), is nothing short of a miniature Liebestod. Korngold and Wolfgang Rihm play with translucent semitone sighs, Schumann’s ‘Nachtlied’ is characterized by hovering harmonies; Strauss and Korngold use late-romantic opulence; while tonality with Charles Ives and Alban Berg begins to lose its hold, while Berg, abandons tonality entirely. John Cage goes a step further and directs the pianist to drum the notes on the lid of a completely closed piano. Randy Newman’s ‘In Germany before the war’ is wreathed in mystery.

Olivia Vermeulen
Praised for the “exceptional wealth of colors” of her voice (Opernwelt) and her singing of “exquisite, inexhaustibale sweetness” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), Olivia Vermeulen has established herself as one of the leading vocal artists in today’s classical music world. Her opera and concert performances in a wide range of repertoire from early music to 21st century works have stunned audiences around the world.

Olivia Vermeulen has frequently worked with eminent conductors such as René Jacobs, Philippe Herreweghe, Pablo Heras-Casado, Daniel Harding, Marek Janowski, Michael Schønwandt, Lothar Zagrosek, Andrea Marcon, Giovanni Antonini, Iván Fischer, Markus Stenz, Frans Brüggen, Reinhard Goebel, Alessandro de Marchi, and Tomáš Netopil. She has appeared with many of the world’s most distinguished orchestras, including the Budapest Festival Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, and Camerata Salzburg, and has been invited to appear at leading festivals including the Festival International d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence, Ruhrtriennale, the Festival International d’Opéra Baroque & Romantique de Beaune, Munich Opera Festival, Musikfest Berlin, Kissinger Sommer, Rheingau Music Festival, and Mozartwoche Salzburg.

In 2019 Vermeulen celebrated her début at the Opéra National de Paris in a Romeo Castellucci landmark production of Scarlatti’s Il primo omicidio conducted by René Jacobs, a production she sang at the Berlin Staatsoper as well in the same year. 2018 saw her début with the Berliner Philharmoniker in a performance of Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor conducted by Daniel Harding. Her interpretation of the role of Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, performed on a 2018 worldwide tour with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra lead by René Jacobs, received rave reviews.

Jan Philip Schulze
Pianist Jan Philip Schulze has enjoyed success as a soloist, chamber music partner and accompanist for lieder, giving concerts extensively across Europe as well as in the Far East. An expert in contemporary music, he is also active as a teacher, editor and organizer.

With Juliane Banse, Annette Dasch, Rachel Harnisch, Dietrich Henschel, Jonas Kaufmann, Johan Reuter, Robert Dean Smith, Sarah Maria Sun, Violeta Urmana and Olivia Vermeulen, he has performed at the Salzburg Festival, the Schubertiad in Schwarzenberg, the festivals in Lucerne, Munich, Edinburgh and Tokyo, La Scala in Milan, the opera houses in Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Paris, Brussels, London’s Wigmore Hall and the Berlin Philharmonie.

He has given many premiere performances and worked closely alongside such composers as Hans Werner Henze, Wolfgang Rihm, Dieter Schnebel, Jörg Widmann, Manfred Trojahn, Nikolaus Brass and many others in the course of time. He has also performed piano concertos by Xenakis, Staude and Schöllhorn with the Munich Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the WDR Symphony Orchestra.

Always keen to discover unknown or adventurous repertoire, Jan Philip Schulze has built up an extensive and multi-faceted discography in recent years. As well as highly acclaimed recordings of piano works by Jörg Widmann and Hans Werner Henze, he has performed early Classical music with the Trio Amédée, piano sextets from France and lieder repertoire from Schubert to Carl Nielsen and Paul Hindemith.

Olivia Vermeulen - Mezzo Soprano
Jan Philip Schulze - Piano

1. Claudio Monteverdi: Lasciatemi morire (Rinuccini) from 'L'Arianna“ 1608 (01:19)
2. Finneas and Billie O Connell: Listen before i go (04:33)
3. Franz Schubert: Der Tod und das Mädchen Op. 7/3 D. 531 (Claudius) (02:15)
4. Nick Cave: The curse of Millhaven from “Murder Ballads” 1996 (04:49)
5. Franz Schubert: Der Jüngling und der Tod D. 545 (Spaun) (03:44)
6. George Crumb: Dance of the moon in Santiago (García Lorca trad. Crumb) from “Sun and Shadow” 2009 (03:02)
7. Randy Newman: In Germany before the war (Newman) From “Little Criminals” 1977 (03:55)
8. Bernhard Lang: The crow (Lang) from “The cold Trip pt. 2” 2015 (01:44)
9. Danger Dan: Ode an den Mord (Daniel Pongratz) From “Das ist alles von der Kunstfreiheit gedeckt” 2021 (02:23)
10. Charles Ives: Charlie Rutlage S. 226 (traditional, collected by J. A. Lomax) (02:35)
11. Andrew Lippa: Death is just around the corner (Lippa) from “The Adams Family” (04:10)
12. John Cage: The wonderful widow of eighteen springs (Joyce) (02:41)
13. Robert Schumann: Nachtlied Op. 96/1 (Goethe) (02:02)
14. Wolfgang Rihm: Zwei Gedichte von Marina Zwetajewa 2016 (trad. Waldemar Dege)...bist fort (01:56)
15. Wolfgang Rihm: Zwei Gedichte von Marina Zwetajewa 2016 (trad. Waldemar Dege)Zeit sich vom Bernstein zu trennen (01:17)
16. Gustav Mahler: Urlicht (Des Knaben Wunderhorn) (04:03)
17. Richard Strauss: Befreit Op. 39/4 (Dehmel) (05:03)
18. Henri Duparc: Extase (Lahor) (03:07)
19. Alban Berg: Vier Gesänge Op. 2Aus Dem Schmerz sein Recht (Hebbel) (02:32)
20. Alban Berg: Vier Gesänge Op. 2Schlafend trägt man mich in mein Heimatland (Mombert) (00:59)
21. Alban Berg: Vier Gesänge Op. 2Nun ich der Riesen Stärksten überwand (Mombert) (00:57)
22. Alban Berg: Vier Gesänge Op. 2Warm die Lüfte (Mombert) (02:29)
23. Jan Vermeulen: Als ik dood ben lig ik onder gras (00:35)
24. Erich Wolfgang Korngold: from Lieder des Abschieds Op. 14Sterbelied (Rosetti trad. Kerr) (03:35)
25. Erich Wolfgang Korngold: from Lieder des Abschieds Op. 14Dies eine kann mein Sehnen nimmer fassen (Ronsperger) (02:39)
26. Erich Wolfgang Korngold: from Lieder des Abschieds Op. 14Mond, so gehst Du wieder auf (Lothar) (03:15)

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Olivia Vermeulen, Jan Philip Schulze
Hello Darkness - An ode to death in songs from Claudio Monteverdi to Billie Eilish
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