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Hesperos - 20th Century Songs - Switzerland
Othmar SCHOECK (1886-1957)

Zwölf Eichendorff-Lieder Op. 30 (1917-18):-
Waldeinsamkeit; Kurze fahrt; Winternacht; Im wandern; Sterbeglocken; Ergebung; Nachklang; Der verspätete Wanderer; Nacht; An die Lützowschen Jäger; Auf dem Rhein
Meinrad SCHÜTTER (b.1910)

Ausgewählte Lieder (1931-1994):-
Dumonda (Bitte); Herbsttag; Der Tod; Die Müden sterne; Nächtliche Lampe; Zona dal Plaschair (Zone des Vergnügens); Favuogn (Föhnmorgen)
Andrea Lorenzo SCARTAZZINI (b. 1971)

Sappho-Lieder (2002):-
Dieser morgen war; In der mitte des tages; Hesperos du bist der; Der mond in der dämerrung; Die sterne gehen wie kienspäne; An meinem bett stand sie.
Michael Leibundgut (bass)
Ute Stoecklin (piano)
rec Theodor-Egel-Saal, Freiburg, Germany 16-17 Jan 2002 (Schoeck; Schütter; 4 May 2002 (Scartazzini), DDD
GUILD GMCD 7254 [55.23]


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Guild have established themselves in a comparatively short time. They first crossed my field of view in 1997 with a series of releases which included Schoeck and Goossens CDs. They are based in Switzerland but with an official presence in St Helier in Jersey. Their products are as hallmarked as ASV, Chandos, Orfeo and Hyperion. The substance of what they offer is of great distinction and they strive for and usually attain exemplary aesthetic standards. Do have a look at their website.

This song recital is a successor to Guild's admirable CD of Romantic Swiss songs reviewed earlier this year. Both discs are regrettably rather short in playing time - being less than sixty minutes - but in every other respect the qualities of both releases are high. Take for example the notes by pianist Ute Stoecklin and the fact that full texts are given in the original language (usually German though there is some Romanche - Switzerland's official fourth language - as well) and in translation. The text is in clear type with none of the designer ‘finnickiness’ that 'distinguishes' quite a few classical releases.

The selection of songs charts the poles and tropics from Schoeck's frank lyricism to Schütter's expressionism to Scartazzini's radiating experimentalism.

The Eichendorff lieder are from Schoeck's comparatively early maturity. They are ripely romantic charting a heritage from Schumann: elegies, joy, ballads. Though Leibundgut is a bass he is young and currently his freshly produced voice has a golden baritonal patina. He recalls a young Fischer-Dieskau before vocal fatigue set in, hardening and calcifying. This is by no means a bass with cavernous depths. He is every bit the serenader. Highlights include the glowing lyrical contours of Winternacht and Waldeinsamkeit. There is some vocal strain in Im Wandern and in the heroic ascents of Lockung. Stoecklin, an attentive presence throughout (and remarkably open-minded given what she is called on to do in the Scartazzini songs) evokes the glitter and glimmer of star-shine and moonlight in both Nacht and Nachklang.

Schütter's vocabulary is freer with dissonance amongst the melody. He indulges waywardly liberal tonality. His tendency is towards starry textures: Klimt-like and expressionistic. Zona dal plaschair is very dissonant with a spoken part. The voice seems lost in a dreamlike pierrot state in Favuogn.

Scartazzini was a pupil of Rihm and Kelterborn. Here Leibundgut shows his attention to dynamics amid the freely tonal wanderings of Dieser morgen war. The piano writing is truly dissonant and the vocal line is almost muezzin-like. Scartazzini's songs are about as far removed from Bantock's Sappho songs (Hyperion) as you could imagine. The piano part in particular calls for Cage-ian techniques and the voice whispers, pitters, patters, groans (like a Tibetan lamasery cantor) and breathes.

The Scartazzini is unlikely to draw in the growing band of Schoeck fanciers. Those who take well to Scartazzini might well find Schoeck just too romantic. The expressionism of Schütter stands in the middle ground.

Rob Barnett

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