Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Schwanengesang D 957
Totengräbers Heimwehe D 842
Nachtstücke D672
An den Mond
D 193
Im Frühling
D 882
Christian Gerhaher (baritone) Gerold Huber (piano)
Arte Nova Classics DDD 74321750752 [71.18]
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Although having appeared at the Wigmore Hall, the name of Christian Gerhaher is still little known in the UK. It is to be hoped therefore that this release in the Arte Nova Voices series brings him wider recognition for he is undoubtedly a singer of considerable expressive talent.

The popularity of this repertoire makes it a brave choice for what I presume to be his debut recital on compact disc; yet from the outset the strength and expressive range of his voice is in evidence. In the second song, Kriegers Ahnung, he demonstrates admirable evenness of tone and handles the transition between the opening material and the more fluid music that follows with natural ease. On familiar ground in the fourth song, Ständchen, he is able to hold his own impressively, projecting his dynamic range admirably. There are a couple of moments of slightly uneasy intonation in the extraordinary In der Ferne although this is soon forgotten as Gerhaher shows the true emotional range of his voice later in the song. He is possibly at his very best in songs eight and nine, Der Atlas and Ihr Bild, the former sung with considerable dynamic power, followed by the complete contrast of the hushed, desolate opening of Ihr Bild. The haunting atmosphere created at the beginning of the eleventh song, Die Stadt, lingers in the memory as does the impressive climax (around 3'25") in the funereal Der Doppelgänger, the thirteenth song. The four additional songs that make up the disc are handled with equal sensitivity, my only slight caveat throughout the recital being that I would have liked to have heard a little more dynamic and expressive contrast from the accompanist at times.

One major gripe as far as the packaging is concerned. It is a great shame that Arte Nova do not print English translations of the text in the booklet as they do with the introductory essay on the music and the performer's biographies. I know there are plenty of counter arguments (budget price, German produced, well-known repertoire etc.) but given the width of the market that the disc is aimed at it really would be an asset.

This point aside however the disc represents excellent value for money and for those wishing to build a collection economically can be recommended unreservedly. Lieder enthusiasts will, without question, have their favourite recordings of Schwanengesang, but at budget price this performance is well worth a listen.

Christopher Thomas

Texts from Emily Ezust

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