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 SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
CD 1: Edward, D.923, Die Nacht, D.534, Lorma (fragment), D.376, Verklärung, D.59, Der blinde Knabe, D.833, Der Weiberfreund, D.271, An Silvia, D.891, Trinklied, D.888, Ständchen, D.889, Der Tod Oscars, D.375
CD 2: La pastorella, D.528, Son fra líonde, D.78, Pensa che questo istante, D.76 (versions 1 & 2), Misero pargoletto, D.42, Vedi quanto adoro, D.510, Drei Gesänge für Basstimme, D.902: Líincanto degli occhi, Il traditor deluso, il modo di prender moglie, Vier Canzonen für eine Singstimme, D.688: Non tíaccostar allíurna, Guarda, che bianca luna, Da quel sembiante, Mio ben ricordati, Leiden der Trennung, D.509, Drei Lieder nach Sonetten von Petrarca, D.628-630, Abendständchen, D.265, Der Sternenwelten, D.307, Der 13. Psalm
Maya Boog (soprano), Wolf Matthias Friedrich (bass-baritone), Ulrich Eisenlohr (piano)
Recorded in Radiostudio 1, Zurich, June 17th-21st 2002
Schubert-Lied-Edition 14: European Poets, Vol. 2
NAXOS 8.557026-27 [51:31+56:03]


We tend to think of lieder as German settings of German poems, but the Austrian-German literary circles of Schubertís day, richly endowed though they were in romantic poets of their own, showed considerable interest in foreign authors, of which they translated a great many. All the poems on the first disc are of British origin. The choice of Shakespeare is not surprising ("Who is Sylvia?", "Come, thou monarch of the vine" and "Hark, hark, the lark" are the English titles of D.891, D.888 and D.889), nor maybe is that of Colley Cibberís touching poem "The Blind Boy", but it is interesting that they hit upon Pope ("Verklärung": "The dying Christian to his soul"), Cowley ("Der Weiberfreund": "The Inconstant") and a Scottish Ballad, "Edward", from Percyís "Reliques" (Brahms based the first of his Ballades, op. 10, on this poem). Inexplicable to us now is the enormous vogue for James Macphersonís pseudo-Celtic "Ossian" fragments, gloomy, indigestible stuff which surely holds no interest for anyone today. And herein lies the problem with this CD. While there are many lieder which are so beautiful that it need not worry us if the words are of poor quality, in "Die Nacht" and "Der Tod Oscars" Schubert provides a sort of dramatic declamation interspersed with melodramatic piano interludes which is unlikely to hold the interest of anyone who does not understand the words and love them. Wolf Matthias Friedrich is a fine singer and goes through the gamut of Fischer-Dieskau-inspired expression, but these two songs last, respectively, 11í 39" and 14í23" and I donít relish hearing them again. Iím all in favour of widening my knowledge of Schubert lieder, and normally a CD of mainly little-known pieces would guarantee more than a few treasures, but Iím afraid that in this case it is with good reason that the best known are "An Silvia", "Ständchen" (though the "Trinklied" which separates them is a spirited affair) and "Der blinde Knabe".

And this brings me to another problem. As Iíve said, Friedrich is a good singer, but the three popular songs (and roughly half the others) fall to Maya Boog. I thought it a little strange to have a woman sing "An Silvia" and "Ständchen" when there is a man around who could have done it, but in the former case I found I had alternative soprano versions by Lott and Schwarzkopf. Both these are considerably slower, and if Lott and Graham Johnson sound heavy in their tempo, Schwarzkopf does not, thanks to the ineffable poetry drawn from the piano part by that prince of Schubertians, Edwin Fischer. By their side Boog seems breathless, insecure and squally, and her pianist impatient. In "Ständchen", on the other hand, this team is slow and heavy. Fischer-Dieskau sounds much fuller of the joys of early morning, and Eisenlohr would do well to listen to Gerald Mooreís light and humorous handling of the piano part. In "Der blinde Knabe" Boogís line is sketchy compared with the effortless delivery of Margaret Price (on Classics for Pleasure).

Priceís disc also includes, "La pastorella", the first song on the second disc under review. Interestingly, here it is Boog and Eisenlohr who make a better impression, light and carefree, than the rather stately Price. Singers will often tell you that Italian is the best language for singing, whatever your native tongue may be, and Boog certainly sounds much more at ease here, her roulades tossed off neatly. But elsewhere the Italian songs have their dramatic moments, and problems return. In truth, I think she is a charming light soprano who would probably make a very nice Despina or Zerlina, but is overparted (at least for the moment) by anything requiring more power.

The second CD, then, is mostly Italian, with a few concluding odds and ends (songs from French and Slovenian, and a rare and unfinished Psalm setting). Some of these are very early pieces, set as exercises for Schubertís teacher Salieri, but later he made some more Italian settings on his own account, culminating in the "Three songs for bass", D. 902. It is fascinating to find a late work (1827) which has nothing of the melancholy we associate with this period in Schubertís life; instead it reflects his love of Rossini. It would be unkind to dismiss the songs as pastiche for they are as good as the real thing! Unlike Boog, I find Friedrich a little less effective in Italian than in German, and also I feel that a real Italian basso, with some growling bottom notes, is called for rather than a bass-baritone. Giuseppe Taddei in his prime would have been the man for the job.

The early songs are mostly charming, scarcely distinguishable from the "arie da camera" of Donizetti or, particularly, Bellini. Although Schubert was able to set Italian effectively, for his Petrarch sonnets he used a translation. The result is poised midway between the Italian style and something recognizably Schubertian, and he seems not greatly engaged. Very beautiful, on the other hand, is the Slovenian setting, "Die Sternenwelten".

I fear this is an issue for those determined to collect the whole series. Too often the Schubert we love seems far away and it does not help that one of the singers is sub-standard. If you are collecting the series, you can be assured of the recording quality and of the notes (with texts and translations) by Eisenlohr, who is masterminding the whole enterprise. These may not have the encyclopaedic dimensions of Graham Johnsonís in the Hyperion edition, but they are still far more detailed than we have a right to expect at this price, and in some cases are more interesting than the music.

Christopher Howell


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