Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Sehnsucht, D310 (first version, 1815) [1’50]. Rastlöse Liebe, D138 (1821) [1’17]. Nähe des Geliebten, D162 (1821) [3’21]. Die Liebe, D210 (1815) [1’34]. Sehnsucht, D310 (c1816) [2’03]. Gretchen am Spinnrade, D118 (1814) [3’20]. Szene aus Faust, D126a (1814) [5’33]. Gretchen im Zwinger, D564 (1817) [3’19]. Sehnsucht, D359 (1816) [2’30]. Suleika I, D720 (1821) [5’36]. Suleika II, D717 (1821?) [3’56]. Sehnsucht, D481 (1816) [2’10]. An Mignon, D161a (1815) [2’57]. Mignon und der Harfner, D877 No. 1a (1826) [2’54]. Mignon I, D726 (1821) [2’32]. Mignon II, D727 (1821) [3’04]. Wonne der Wehmut, D260 (1815) [0’47]. Schweizerlied, D559 (1817) [1’15]. Die Spinnerin, D247 (1815) [2’51]. Die Liebende schreibt, D673 (1819) [2’16]. Lied der Mignon, D877 No. 4 (1826) [3’28]. Lied der Mignon, D877 No. 2 (1826) [3’29]. Lied der Mignon, D877 No. 3 (1826) [2’58]. Mignon, D321 (1815) [4’17].
Ruth Ziesak (soprano); aChristian Elsner (tenor); Ulrich Eisenlohr (piano).
Rec. Radiostudio, Zürich, on July 15th-16th, October 31st and November 1st, 2002. DDD
Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition, Volume 13 - Goethe Lieder, Volume 2
NAXOS 8.554666 [68’16]

Naxos’s Schubert Lied edition tramps ever onward with the present offering of Goethe-inspired pieces. Volume 1 (8.554665), featuring baritone Ulf Bästlein and pianist Stefan Laux, was released back in October 1999, so some collectors might have been holding their breath for rather a long time. Was the wait worth it?.

Naxos’s policy of choosing young German Lieder singers is a laudable one. The pianist on this offering is also the project’s Artistic Advisor, Ulrich Eisenlohr, who shows great sensitivity and good intent always (if not providing the insights of his rival on Hyperion, Graham Johnson). And Ruth Ziesak (the principal artist on this disc) is well-respected as a singer who has recorded for a wide variety of labels. Amongst her discography, Pamina (with Solti) and Mahler Fourth Symphony (with Gatti) stand out.

Beginning a recital with Sehnsucht, D310, in the concert hall would be brave (of course it was almost certainly not the first Lied in the sessions!). It is nearly all slow delicacy - the one more impassioned passage requires a firm lower register (which here taxes Ziesak). The piano sounds insubstantial, and too much in the background.

A little more body in the higher regions would not go amiss in some other lieder, also (Nähe des Geliebten springs to mind here). Nevertheless, Ziesak’s young-sounding voice does result in a convincingly youthful portrayal in Gretchen am Spinnrade, here unfortunately let down by a decidedly un-mesmeric piano/spinning wheel. A nice idea to present a trio of Gretchen songs in sequence, though: next comes Szene aus Faust, D126 (with a focused Elsner as Evil Spirit and ‘Chorus’; not enough to erase memories of his Schöne Müllerin, though! 8.554664: link). The dramatic element is well-realised, and it is nice that Naxos provide textual differences with Goethe’s original. Gretchen im Zweiger, D564, is given an adequate airing by Ziesak.

The main problem seems to be that Ziesak, while her voice is attractive in short bursts, becomes tiring to listen to after just a few Lieder. It is not only her vocal quality, more that the songs tend to emerge much the same. At least Eisenlohr makes sufficient textural gradations to keep the interest alive (try the beginning of Suleika I, D720, for an example of his tonal sensitivity).

The duet Mignon und der Harfner, D877 works well. Unfortunately Ziesak’s vocal swoops in the folk-like Schweizerlied, D559 are off-putting (yodelling imitations, surely, but they just sound like technical failings here). But perhaps it is the Lied der Mignon (Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt), D877, (track 21) that best exemplifies this disc’s failings. Ziesak simply does not have the interpretative maturity to conjure up the requisite intimacy. Surely this Lied should make one hold one’s breath for fear of disturbing the magic?. No chance here.

A great pity also, that the recital ends with D321, in which Eisenlohr’s technique sounds stretched by the tricky finger-work in the more rapid passages.

Joachim Landkammer’s booklet notes help the listener through the maze of Mignons (An Mignon, Mignon I and II, Lieder der Mignon …). A pity that the running order on the back of the box does not concur with that in the booklet, though. The booklet is correct: the second song we hear is Nahe des Geliebten, not Rastlose Liebe.

To refer back to my first paragraph: well, was the wait for Volume 2 worth it?. Alas, no. I cannot say in all truth that I shall be searching my shelves for this disc too often in future, despite some pleasant moments.

Colin Clarke


For reviews of other releases in this series,
see the Naxos Deutsche Schubert-Lied Edition page


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