a peer reviewed scholarly journal on literature and art in the German speaking countries after 1945
G l o s s e n: Artikel
Rutgers University Professor and Professional Singer Records Songs of Forgotten German-Jewish Composer
Joseph C. Schiavo
Rutgers University Assistant Professor
of Music and opera tenor Martin Dillon first heard the music of Robert
Kahn while performing in a magnificent castle on Lake Starnberg in
"I remember being stunned by the
beauty and lyricism of the music," recalls Dillon, "the
songs were so beautiful that I had to learn more about this composer
whose name was so unfamiliar to me." Dillon returned to Munich
where he befriended fellow concert singer David Greiner, the great-grandson
of Kahn. Through Greiner, Dillon learned about the poignant story
of a gifted composer whose works were banned by the Nazi's in 1938.
"Robert Kahn was one of seven children
born to a wealthy German Jewish family from Mannheim," recalls
Dillon. The Kahn family was much involved in the arts in Mannheim
where Robert began his early training on piano and as a student of
composition. He met violinist Joseph Joachim in Berlin while studying
at the Royal Academy of Music during the early to mid 1880s. Their
friendship proved beneficial to Kahn later on, especially by Joachim's
performances of Kahn's works for violin. A major influence on Kahn's
impressionable youth was Johannes Brahms, who he learned about while
attending meetings devoted solely to the study of Brahms's music at
the home of Theodor Sohler, a reputable music publisher and dealer
Dillon, a professional singer whose
career as an operatic tenor has included over forty starring roles
in European and American opera houses, including six appearances at
Carnegie Hall, could not allow the Kahn legacy to continue its life
in relative obscurity. Dillon's passionate commitment to resurrecting
the music is now beginning to bear fruit.
The Lieder in the recording spans a
wide range in years. The earliest song in the set is "Obdach
der Liebe" op. 6 no. 5, composed in 1886. The oldest is "Abendlied,"
op. 68 no.1, composed in 1920. The majority of the songs are through-composed
with the exception of "Wie trag ich doch im Sinne," "Obdach
der Liebe," and "Erhalte Gott, mir dies Gefuhl," which
are all written in strophic form. The songs attest to Kahn's mastery
of the piano by making the piano accompaniment an equal partner in
the interpretive process. The melodies exhibit a wondrous lyricism
and remarkable coherency.
Martin Dillon brings this premiere collection
of Kahn songs to life from the depths of relative obscurity for the
first time. He is the only musician in the United States performing
Kahn's music. Dillon's superlative and masterful voice is a perfect
match to the lyricism of Kahn's melodies and contrapuntal textures.
1 A translation of the essay appears
in Burkhard Laugwitz. "Robert Kahn and Brahms," trans. Reinhard
G. Pauly, Musical Quarterly 74.4 (1990): 595-609.
2 Laugwitz 603.
3 To obtain a copy of "Jungbrunnen," please visit www.ganymederecords.com.