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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Sacred Music
Offertorium in B minor, D.963 (1828) [9.25]
Salve Regina in B major, D.386 (1816) [2.52]
Magnificat in C major, D.486 (1815) [8.32]
Psalm 23, D.706  (1820) [5.07]
Salve regina in B major, D.106 (1814)  [4.48]
Tantum Ergo in E flat major, D.962 (1828) [5.34]
Offertorium in C major, D.136 (1815) [5.07]
Chorus of Angels, D.440 (1819) [3.27]
Offertorium in F major
, D.223 (1823) [5.24]
Gott in der Natur, D. 757 (1822) [6.55]
Stabat Mater in G minor
, D.175 (1815) [6.55]
Heilig, Heilig, from Deutsche Messe, D.872 (1827) [3.05]
Celina Lindsley (soprano), Magdalena Hajossyova (mezzo), Gabriela Schrekenbach (contralto), Peter Schreier (tenor), Werner Hollweg (tenor), Walton Grönroos (bass)
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Marcus Creed, Dietrich Knothe (conductors)
rec. 11-12 March 2005, RIAS Berlin
CAPRICCIO 71 050 [66.16]

 

 

Sacred music always played a central part in Schubert’s creative life and the possibility of employment as a church musician held great interest for him at every stage. Although there were undoubtedly important creative fruits from this enticing possibility, some of them reflected here, the overall impression remains the same as in his other fields of creative work, a feeling of what might have been rather than what was.

This is not to suggest that the music is less than first rate; far from it. It is merely to comment upon the somewhat tragic nature of Schubert’s career as a musician. For us, our awareness of his work in the field of sacred music is inevitably dominated by the large-scale masses; but what we find collected in this Capriccio anthology reveals interesting, indeed compelling, music from across the spectrum of his creative life.

The earlier pieces date from Schubert’s mid-teens, the period of the first songs and symphonies. As with those compositions, the assurance is palpable, and the style is very much that of the late-18th century world of Mozart and Haydn, the former in particular. The brevity of these pieces, including for example, the Salve Regina of 1816 and the Stabat Mater composed the previous year, becomes their very strength, since the issue of extended development is not encountered. What there is instead is a complete mastery of means over ends, often resulting in a sensitive beauty of choral sound.

Clearly if this effect is made, due recognition must be accorded the performers, both the chorus and the orchestra. The conducting is shared by Dietrich Knothe and Marcus Creed, the latter of recent Guildford Philharmonic and Bournemouth Symphony Chorus pedigree; and in both cases there is the feeling that the music is sensitively balanced and shaped, with the full support of the ambience created by the recording engineers.

It is true, of course, that Schubert’s music grew stronger and more compelling as he grew older. So it proves here, as the opening item, the Offertorium from his final year, shows. Benjamin Britten rightly described the achievement of Schubert’s final year of 1828 as ‘a miracle’, and this imaginative and sensitive response to the text is further proof of that judgement.

The solo singers perform well, both individually and as a team in whichever combinations are required. The best of them are the two distinguished tenors, Peter Schreier and Werner Hollweg, and the voices are always balanced in appropriate priority and spacing.

Given that much of the music is little known, the accompanying documentation becomes the more important. Alas, the booklet does not match the standard of performance. The editing is inconsistent: for example, some dates are included, some are not. The texts are not given with translations, the print is very small and is, moreover, rendered difficult to read because of the indulgent ‘designer background’ of a grey forest view. What on earth are such things designed to achieve? It seems a pity to end on a churlish note, but this does let the side down in respect of what is otherwise an excellent issue.

Terry Barfoot

see also Review by Michael Cookson

 

 

 

 

 



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