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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Stefan Schennach
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Tel (+43) 1 21991109-0
Fax (+43) 1 2199109-22
Mobil (+43) 664 1428006
E-Mail stefan.schennach@gruene.at s.schennach@daphne.at
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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) arr. Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Tanti strali al sen mi scocchi [09:13]
BRAHMS
Wir Schwestern zwei, op.61/1 [02:11], Die Meere, op.20/3 [02:36], Guter Rat [02:13], Phänomen, op.61/3 [01:53]
HANDEL/BRAHMS
Langue [05:49]
BRAHMS
Volkslieder: All mein Gedanken (soprano) [02:55], Da unten im Tale (contralto) [02:01], Hüt du dich, op.66/4 [02:50], Am Strande, op.66/3 [02:22]
HANDEL/BRAHMS
Se tu non lasci amore [06:19]
BRAHMS
Volkslieder: Dort in den Weiden steht ein Haus (soprano) [01:16], Soll sich der Mond nicht heller scheinen (contralto) [02:52], Klosterfräulein, op.61/2 [01:52], Die Boten der Liebe, op.61/4 [02:45]
HANDEL/BRAHMS
Beato in ver chi può [08:09]
BRAHMS
Volkslieder: So will ich frisch und fröhlich sein (contralto) [01:38], In stiller Nacht (soprano) [02:27], Jägerlied, op.66/4 [01:28], Klänge I, op.66/1 [01:41], Klänge II, op.66/2 [02:11]
HANDEL/BRAHMS
Fronda leggiera e mobile [07:03]
Doerthe Maria Sandmann (soprano), Lydia Vierlinger (contralto), Russell Ryan (piano)
Recorded February 2005
AMADEO CD 4763089 [74:46]

 

 

This record is evidently not expected to circulate beyond the German-speaking world since the booklet notes are in German only. We get the texts in the original languages and German translations of those that are in Italian. I hope the disc will reach a wider audience even so, for it contains some interesting material, very well performed.

Brahms wrote a total of thirteen duets for soprano and contralto with piano accompaniment, of which eleven are included here; the first two of op.20 are missing. Rather than filling out the programme in the “obvious” way with duets by Schumann and Mendelssohn, Sandmann and Vierlinger have noted that Brahms realized the figured bass for an edition of Handel’s vocal duets and present here five of them. Having thus proposed the theme of “Johannes Brahms as Composer and Arranger” - I understood at least the title of the booklet note! - they develop it further by including six of his arrangements of German folksongs. As these are for solo singer, they sing three each.

Brahms was perhaps the first great composer to develop something of a musicological interest in his past roots - he also edited the keyboard works of Couperin - and a great advocate of a revival of the works of Bach and Handel. So don’t expect an operation such as Liszt might have attempted, an anachronistic meeting of musical minds. Brahms’s Irish fan club Stanford made an edition of some Purcell sonatas so outrageously over the top that it would be worth performing, not as a work of Purcell but as a work of Stanford. Brahms on the other hand put his creative genius firmly to one side and produced a straightforward realisation of the figured bass such as any other competent musician of his time might have made. So in all truth gramophone listeners today would presumably sooner hear them with an authentic accompaniment realized according to our present knowledge of such things. That said, they would still be useful for live concerts by a duo like this who could begin with a baroque group before going on to romantics. The name of Brahms would give it greater legitimacy than would the name of Ebenezer Prout or someone similar. But even on disc our curiosity on reading that Brahms made such arrangements no doubts leads us to demand that a few should be available. Just don’t expect too much.

These singers have considerable experience in baroque music and sing with the virginal tones, free of any trace of vibrato, habitually employed today in “authentic” performances. Their passage work is clean, their Italian is clear, their phrasing is musical and they blend well. True to the Brahmsian aspect of the operation they do not add any further ornamentation or decorate “da capo” reprises, as I suspect they might if they had been working with an authentic accompaniment. In short, I can’t imagine a better approach.

They also maintain similarly dulcet tones, with very sparing vibrato, in Brahms himself. In the duets this certainly allows the single lines to remain clear, with the perfect blending which becomes difficult if there are two conflicting vibratos to contend with. The pianist also adopts a very clean approach, with less pedal than we normally hear in romantic music. After all, Brahms didn’t actually specify the pedal was to be used and I never found him dry. My only criticism in the whole programme was his rather rough way with the forte refrains in “Wir Schwestern zwei”.

When on their own, however, I found these singers a shade lacking in personality, though the singing remains well-trained and musical. I was able to compare two of the folksongs with performances by Irmgard Seefried. She was almost equally sparing of vibrato and could not be called interventionist, yet with a little emphasis on the words here and there she brings the pieces to life in a way these singers don’t quite. She also has that elusive thing that I can only call personality.

For this reason I would have perhaps preferred it if two of the folksongs had been omitted to make space for the two missing duets. However, I do wish to emphasize that, while I don’t exactly clamour to hear lieder recitals from them individually, as a duo they make a fine partnership and I would happy to hear this followed up with the duets by Schumann and Mendelssohn and – if they can sing in Czech and Russian – Dvořák and Tchaikovsky. There is also a set of twelve very attractive duets by Reinecke - with German words. Excellent recording.

Christopher Howell

AVAILABILITY

daphne music & arts consulting GmbH
Stefan Schennach
Praterstraße 25/11, 1020 Wien
Tel (+43) 1 21991109-0
Fax (+43) 1 2199109-22
Mobil (+43) 664 1428006
E-Mail stefan.schennach@gruene.at s.schennach@daphne.at
www.daphne.at

UK MANAGEMENT
Music Inter Alia Arts Promotion and Management
19 Mullins Path, London SW14 8EZ
Tel (+44) 208 878 6191
Fax (+44) 208 878 1783 Mobile (+44) 7798 531 819
E-Mail info@musicinteralia.com

 

 



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