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      Songs on poems by Hesse
Lampions in der Sommernacht
Blauer Schmetterling
      Songs on poems by Eichendorff
Der Student op. 13/6
Der Kehraus op. 13/6
(11.-22. Duo Vermeulen/Vlad)
      Songs op. 3
Wonne der Wehmut op. 3/1 – Goethe
Erster Verlust op. 3/2 – Goethe
Zum Abschied meiner Tochter op. 3/3 – Eichendorff
Der Reisebecher op. 3/4 – Meyer
An meine Mutter op. 3/5 – Mörike
      Songs on poems by Goethe
An den Mond op. 14/10
Totalität – Kläffer
Total Time (including Duo Vermeulen/Vlad)



» Nachklang « – Songs by Justus Hermann Wetzel
Peter Schöne, Baritone
Eduard Stan, Piano

(Olivia Vermeulen, Mezzo – Liana Vlad, Piano)

Label: Genuin
Catalogue number: GEN 12223
Recorded: 10-13 May 2011
Recording location: Siemens-Villa Berlin
Piano: Steinway & Sons D, Hamburg
Programme notes: © Nancy Tanneberger und Klaus Kopitz



On November 7, 1952 Hermann Hesse, then 75 years old, wrote in a letter to Justus Hermann Wetzel: “I was recently able to hear your songs broadcast on the radio from Salzburg. (...) the beautiful, delicately nuanced music with its wealth of delightful invention gave me great pleasure. I am not fond of writing letters any more, yet I still had to tell you that and thank you for it.” In another letter the poet even compared Wetzel’s settings of Hesse with the Vier letzte Lieder by Richard Strauss, which he considered “thoroughly smooth and sweet" and confessed: “I much prefer all of your songs.”

Hesse was among those poets who were very close to Wetzel all his life. Wetzel’s first arrangement of Hesse was completed in 1916. Nine years later, in 1925, fifteen of his Hesse songs were published for the first time as Op. 11. Wetzel sent this “song cycle” to the poet, which gave rise to a lively correspondence between Hesse and Wetzel.

The autumn poem Nachklang also belongs to the Hesse verses set to music by Wetzel; its title seems at the same time to be appropriate for establishing a link to his long forgotten work. When Wetzel set the poem to music in the wartime year of 1943, Hesse’s melancholic lines may well have held a special significance for him: “Mortal too are the songs, not one of them resounds forever, all blow away in the wind.” And even if Hesse acknowledged the significance of Wetzel, it does not really alter the fact that he remained an outsider whose work ultimately remained known only to a few friends.

But he was not predestined to be forgotten. Especially in the 1920s despite — or precisely because of — their stylistic similarity to late Romantic and classical folk songs, his songs were very popular. They found an audience through performances by such outstanding performers as Emmi Leisner, Paula Salomon-Lindberg, Julius von Raatz-Brockmann and above all Heinrich Schlusnus. While Wetzel was still alive Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau also discovered his songwriting artistry and recorded An meine Mutter (Mörike) and Der Kehraus (Eichendorff).

Born on March 11, 1879 in Kyritz/Brandenburg, Justus Hermann Wetzel initially began a career as a natural scientist. In 1901 he received his doctorate in Marburg with a dissertation in zoology. Shortly after that he moved to Berlin, where he studied composition and piano and found his calling in music. Initially, he earned a living as a music critic and private teacher. From 1905 to 1907 he taught at the Riemann Conservatory in Stettin, in 1910 he settled permanently in Berlin, and until 1926 was a teacher of piano and music theory at the renowned Klindworth-Scharwenka Conservatory there.

In 1911 Wetzel published his own edition of several of his songs for the first time. In the following years his “song cycles” were issued by well-known publishers. Over the course of his life he composed more than 600 songs with piano accompaniment, of which about 140 still exist in print today. His favorite poets were Goethe, Eichendorff and Mörike, but also more modern ones such as Hesse and the Swiss poet, Carl Spitteler. The origins of his musical settings can be initially found in Schubert, Brahms and Hugo Wolf. Nonetheless, far from being derivative in his songs, Wetzel is an artist in his own right. As he himself remarked however, it was not “originality” that he so earnestly sought, but simplicity, clear melodic lines and at the same time an intense mood that harmonized with the poetry.

On the occasion of Wetzel’s 50th birthday on March 16, 1929 the Berlin Singakademie gave a concert with programming dedicated entirely to the works of the guest of honor. The music critic Heinz Pringsheim, a brother in law of Thomas Mann, fittingly characterized Wetzel’s songs in a review of the concert in the Allgemeine Musikzeitung: “In the field of the art-song Justus Hermann Wetzel (...) has succeeded in many a beautiful attempt, arising from his intimate relationship to the poet’s words, which turns into music for him. (...) They cannot be said to be original at first sight, his songs, and yet they have a sound of their own which differentiates them significantly from others, an unpretentious purity of feeling and simplicity of expression.

On the occasion of his birthday, several newspapers and magazines paid tribute to Wetzel’s work; the Allgemeine Musikzeitung published the lithographic portrait by Emil Orlik (1919) on their front page. A Wetzel monograph published in 1931 was to be a further high point in the public recognition accorded him.

From 1926 Wetzel had a well-paid job as a teacher of music aesthetics, theory and ear training at the State Academy for Church and School Music in Berlin-Charlottenburg. His best known pupils include the composers Mark Lothar and Friedrich Metzler, as well as the pianist Gerhard Puchelt.

After the National Socialists took power in January 1933 Wetzel withdrew more and more from public life. However, he continued to depend on his job as a teacher in order to support his family – his wife Rose Wetzel, née Bergmann, and their daughter Ruth, born in 1924. Several attempts by Wetzel to emigrate to Switzerland with his family were unsuccessful, despite the fact that the Swiss Nobel Prize winner, Carl Spitteler — with whose work Wetzel was occupied during his entire life — vouched for the family.

Wetzel’s interest in Spitteler, who in 1914 published the highly regarded polemic Unser Schweizer Standpunkt [Our Swiss standpoint] in which he called for Switzerland to remain neutral, derived from his own pacifist beliefs. Wetzel had already published a paper entitled Die Verweigerung des Heerdienstes und die Verurteilung des Krieges [Refusal to serve in the army and condemnation of war] in 1905, in which he rejected any form of violence — an attitude which Wetzel had also embodied.

From July 1937 Wetzel’s career was interrupted for many years. He was dismissed and forbidden to perform in public because he uncompromisingly stood by his Jewish wife and refused to divorce her. Hans Hinkel, a close friend of Goebbels and special commissioner for “cultural personalities,” had personally demanded this from Wetzel. From this time on, the family’s survival was dependent upon friends, who supported them with the bare necessities. Rose Wetzel was arrested in 1943 in Berlin’s Rosenstraße, but was released again in the course of the protest action, which became famous as the “Rosenstrasse women’s protest.”

During this period of existential threats he exchanged views with Hesse, who was living in Switzerland. Involvement in his work was a consolation and solace for Wetzel — even though until the end of the war it was rarely possible for him to do so. A substantial part of his Hesse arrangements were completed in the days following March 5, 1943, when Rose Wetzel was released from Gestapo imprisonment, including Zunachten, Nachklang and Inspiration (“Night. Darkness”). A few month later, on November 23, 1943, the family’s home at the time, an apartment in Düsseldorf, was destroyed in a bombing raid, as a result of which a number of Wetzel’s works were destroyed.

After the war ended Wetzel was rehabilitated. The now 66-year-old was asked to accept a professorship in composition and music theory at the reestablished Hochschule für Musik in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Wetzel accepted the offer, but met with only limited interest among students because his works did not fit in with the new spirit of the times.

In 1948, at the time of the Soviet blockade, Wetzel gave up his Berlin professorship and withdrew with his wife to Überlingen, on Lake Constance. There he devoted himself entirely to artistic work, writing and composing. In 1968, while the composer was still alive, the musicologist Werner Dürrson summed Wetzel up as “perhaps the last significant representative of the traditional art-song based on Classical and Romantic forms.”

Wentzel died in his Überlingen home on December 6, 1973 at the advanced age of 94 years.

In 1999, through the mediation of his daughter, Ruth Ruiz-Pipó, who was living in Paris, his estate came into the possession of what is now Berlin’s Universität der Künste. With the assistance of the Justus Hermann Wetzel Foundation, which was founded shortly thereafter, Wetzel was honored at exhibitions in Berlin (2004) and Überlingen (2005), and an edition of his complete Hesse songs was published in (2006). In addition, in 2008 a Justus Hermann Wetzel scholarship was established, for which young singers who champion Wetzel’s work can apply.

It is to be hoped that this recording will make an important contribution to the rediscovery of Wetzel’s oeuvre. We hope that these new interpretations of his songs by the young artists, Olivia Vermeulen and Peter Schöne, will help the songs to win an even wider audience.

© Nancy Tanneberger und Klaus Martin Kopitz
(English translation by Matthew Harris)



Old or New? (…) A genuine baritone discovery

“All of the eight “Hesse Songs” on this CD impress by the sensitive treatment of the text. The young baritone Peter Schöne offers an enchanting approach, based on a reliable voice safely and slenderly led through every register. Both “Pfeifen”, with its fresh and almost red-cheeked irony, as well as the plain and melancholic “Nachklang” which also serves as the title of the CD, are standing out from the whole group… “Inspiration” appears quite intricate: the baritone has to climb down at the very beginning, in contrast to a high register at the end, where a clean diminuendo is required. Peter Schöne meets those challenges masterfully, furthermore enthralling with two songs on poems by both Goethe and Eichendorff as well as the Song Cycle op. 3. He succeeds in getting out of his voice – a voice which does not even offer a particularly individual timbre itself – a range of countless colours, while his pronunciation remains always comprehensible.

Pianist Eduard Stan serves him as an accompanist of the highest level, revealing through his playing the connections both to the early post-romanticism of someone like Max Reger and the musical impressionism. (…) All the way down to the meticulous booklet, “Nachklang” appears like an outstandingly felicitous project that can make the one or other of Wetzel’s lyrical works regain their place in the universal song repertoire.”

Andreas Falentin, 9 March 2012


» Nachklang « – Songs by
Justus Hermann Wetzel

Peter Schöne, Baritone
Eduard Stan, Piano