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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


RECORDING OF THE MONTH

 

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Thomas Quasthoff: The Voice
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
An die Musik D457 [4:03]; Erlkönig D328 [2:32]; Ständchen, [3:36]; Greisengesang D957 [4:49] (previously unissued)
Thomas Quasthoff, (baritone)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Claudio Abbado
Albert LORTZING (1801-1851)
From Der Wildschütz: Funftausend Taler [5:20]
Thomas Quasthoff (baritone)
Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin/Christian Thielemann
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
From Euryanthe: Wo berg ich mich? [9:17]
Thomas Quasthoff (baritone)
Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin/Christian Thielemann
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
From Tannhäuser: Wie Todesahnung Dämmerung deckt die Lande - O du, mein holde Abendstern [5:39]
Thomas Quasthoff (baritone)
Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin/Christian Thielemann
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
From Der Schweigesame Frau: Wie schön ist die Musik [4:01]
Thomas Quasthoff (baritone)
Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin/Christian Thielemann
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
From Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt, [4:03]; Lob des hohen Verstandes [2:32];
Thomas Quasthoff (baritone) Justus Zeyen (piano)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Ich habe genug BVW 82
Thomas Quasthoff (baritone) Albrecht Mayer, (oboe)
Berliner Barock Soloisten/Rainer Kussmaul (violin and direction)
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Auf der Bruck, D843 [3:21]; Heidenröslein, D257 [1:56]; Die Forelle D550 [2:11]; Tränenregen, D795 [2:11]; Mein! D795 [4:17]; Der Fischermädchen D957 [2:02]; Die Taubenpost, D957 [3:40]
Thomas Quasthoff (baritone) Justus Zeyen (piano)
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Du Bist wie eine Blüme op. 34 [1:34];
Thomas Quasthoff (baritone) Justus Zeyen (piano)
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Auf Flügeln des Gesanges [2:28]; 25 [1:34];
Thomas Quasthoff (baritone) Justus Zeyen (piano)
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Verzagen op. 72 [2:30]; Unüberwindlich [2:13]; Sapphische Ode op. 94 [2:30];
Thomas Quasthoff (baritone) Justus Zeyen (piano)
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Die Loreley S273 [6.51]; O Lieb, so lang du lieben kannst S298 [5:33]; Es muss ein Wunderbaressein S314 [2:07]
Thomas Quasthoff (baritone) Justus Zeyen (piano)
Carl LOEWE (1796-1869)
Herr Oluf op. 2 [6.06];
Thomas Quasthoff (baritone) Justus Zeyen (piano)
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1894)
Heimliche Aufforderung [3:14]; Zueignung op. 10 [1:44]; Morgen! Op. 27 [3:57]
Thomas Quasthoff (baritone) Justus Zeyen (piano)
Solo jazz Improvisation (6:04)
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 6159 [67:22 + 67:11]
 


This is a wonderful introduction to the work of Thomas Quasthoff. Every Quasthoff fan should put it on their Christmas list as a gift to their friends. As a compilation it is comprehensive, because Deutsche Grammophon has taken care to include all aspects of Quasthoff’s varied repertoire. Moreover, it covers a broad range of German Romantic material. In its own way, it is a panorama of the tradition, a potted history in effect, of German song. That in itself would be a recommendation, even without the attraction of Quasthoff’s voice.
 
No collection of song can be without Schubert. Here we have samples from two distinctly different approaches. On the first CD, we have extracts from Quasthoff’s best-selling recording with Anne Sofie von Otter of Schubert songs in orchestral transcription. The conductor is Abbado and the orchestra the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and it was recorded in Berlin in 2004. It’s worth noting this as Quasthoff and von Otter have frequently recorded together and are a pair. His voice verges on the bass, while hers is particularly light and “white” in its purity. Together, they are greater than apart. New listeners won’t learn that from this set, which is a pity, but it is, after all, a set dedicated to him. It is to be hoped that it will encourage new listeners to seek out the original full recordings and enjoy them in full context. The orchestral songs are placed first, perhaps because they were a worldwide hit. The settings aren’t by Schubert, but by other composers, such as Offenbach and Reger. The release may have been the hit it was because of the novelty of hearing Schubert with orchestra, but frankly, this isn’t echt Schubert and some of he transcriptions are fairly dire. Much better for the new listener to seek out the Schubert songs that start CD2. These come from another compilation album, “A Romantic Songbook”, recorded in Paris in 2002, as do the Mendelssohn and Schumann offerings. Justus Zeyen is the pianist in all the piano Lieder on this set, for various reasons, but Quasthoff has recorded with many others too. In his early days he recorded with Charles Spencer.
 
Cleverly, Deutsche Grammophon has included selections from two of the great Schubert song cycles. Taken out of context, they are still perfectly good songs and he sings them well. The idea I think, is to tempt the listener into discovering the full cycles in his or her own time. The two songs from Die Schöne Müllerin are amongst Quasthoff’s most recent work, recorded in July 2005 and released in full earlier this year. The songs from Schwanengesang are from the famous 2003 recording paired with Brahms’ Vier ernste Gesänge, another best-seller. I won’t spoil the surprise by saying which songs come from which cycle – the listener should find this out for himself or herself. There’s no excerpt from Winterreise, which Quasthoff has recorded twice, once for RCA and once for DG.
 
The two Mahler songs come from the 2001 recording with Abbado, also in Berlin, and with Anne Sofie von Otter again. This is definitely a recording to seek out, as von Otter steals the show. Her Urlicht there is worth the price of the whole disc alone. But of course, it won’t be on a Quasthoff tribute. Quasthoff is also a Bach specialist and the star of many Oregon Bach Festivals, which may explain his popularity in the United States. Fortunately, we have here a whole Ich habe genug recorded in Munich in 2000. It’s wonderful because of the oboe playing by Albrecht Mayer which is exquisite. It’s perhaps the finest excerpt on this set because the material suits the deep bass timbre of Quasthoff’s voice, much better than, say, the Schöne Müllerin songs.
 
The extracts from opera are also great favourites. Quasthoff ‘s recording of Lortzing extracts, titled “Abendstern”, released in 2002, propelled Lortzing into the mainstream, introducing new audiences to German operetta. Naturally any compilation of German Romantic music must include Weber, and there’s a short aria from Euryanthe, too.
 
Quasthoff is well known for ending his recitals with a bit of crossover, usually Danny Boy or a bit of jazz. This again is perhaps part of his appeal to American audiences. He sang jazz to support himself in university and it remains a passion. So it’s fitting that this set ends with an extempore improvisation made at a benefit in Berlin in 2004.
 
Quasthoff fans will have most everything here already, but it’s a perfect set for anyone new to Quasthoff, or who wants an introduction to German art song.
 
Anne Ozorio
 

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