> Schubert: Schiller-Lieder Vol.2 [US]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition, Vol. 8
Schiller-Lieder Vol.2

Die Bürgschaft, D246; Hektors Abschied, D312; Amalia (from: Die Räuber), D195; Gruppe aus dem Tartarus (2nd version), D583; Sehnsucht (1st version), D52; Sehnsucht (2nd version), D636; Der Pilgrim, D794; Ritter Toggenburg, D397; Des Mädchens Klage (2nd version), D191; Das Mädchen aus der Fremde (2nd version), D252; An Emma, D113; Die vier Weltalter, D391; Die Hoffnung (1st version), D251; Die Hoffnung (2nd version), D637.
Regina Jakobi (mezzo-soprano); Ulrich Eisenlohr (piano)
Recorded in Studio 2, Bavarian Radio, Munich, Germany, 23rd-27th October, 2000
NAXOS 8.554741 DDD [61.56]


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Naxosís concept of recording all the Schubert songs Ėover 700 of them - with young and lesser known singers, was from the beginning as fascinating as it was risky. And it canít be a big surprise that not all recordings are on the same high standard of vocal art and interpretation.

The present disc contains fourteen settings of the forty-two poems by Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), following Naxosís "Schiller-Lieder, Vol. 1" edition, that had been released only some months ago. The singer on this second volume is a mezzo-soprano, the German born Regina Jakobi, who has performed since the 1980s, mainly in Switzerland, France and Germany. Amongst others she has worked with René Jacobs (and can be heard in two smaller parts on his recording of Monteverdiís LíIncoronazione di Poppea from 1990) and has experience of a repertoire that ranges from Renaissance to contemporary. The artistic director and pianist of the whole Naxos edition, Ulrich Eisenlohr, has chosen her to record songs on verses by Schiller which had been composed between 1813 and 1823. Two of them are present in alternate versions

Schubertís settings of verses by Schiller are not his best known. Unlike his settings of Goetheís poems, only a few of them, like the Gruppe aus dem Tartarus have found their way into the main repertoire of todayís Lieder singers. And listening to them as a group one can get an idea why this is so: compared with Schubertís Goethe-Lieder most of them have a certain flatness, as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau wrote in his monograph on the Schubert-Lieder (1971). Maybe it is their high literary quality, which prevented an easy opening to the audience. They demand, unlike many of Schubertís other songs, interpreters on a great artistic and intellectual level. Far away from folk verses, the complex structure of Schillerís poetry needs a penetrating understanding of their literary level. The poems are the most exalted of German poetry from that period. The verses not only illustrate, tell stories in poetry but are the expression of classic concepts.

The problem of the present disc is evident from the first minute. Regina Jacobiís diction is inaccurate, she has a tendency to slur the last syllables of a word and to hush over little words, like articles or pronouns, certain letters like Ďnís and Ďmís seem to be exchangeable in her pronunciation. I am a native German speaker and I am experienced in understanding sung text, but more than once in almost every lied I had problems following the text by just hearing it. This problem continues in the vocal line. Short notes are often passed over too quickly and the rhythmic structure becomes unclear. The first recitative of Schillerís ballad Die Bürgschaft, that opens the selection, is not coordinated with the accompaniment ("Die Stadt vom Tyrannen befreien"). This ballad demands a narrative quality through direct speech, similar to Schubertís famous setting of Goetheís Erlkönig. Jakobiís performance remains flat, she refuses any characterisation of the acting persons through her voice, only dynamic variations and changes of tempi are left. The dramatic climax of the ballad, atmospheric changes and a difference between description and reporting could mainly be heard in Ulrich Eisenlohrís reserved playing.

Whoever hears the performance of Gruppe aus dem Tartarus with Fischer-Dieskau and Benjamin Britten from 1972 (available on BBC Music) will understand how well calculated the effects of Schubertís lieder are. The opening crescendo, that doesnít seem to have an end, the energy of the cries of "Ewigkeit" ("eternity") , the last empty, almost icy accord - an eruptive outburst of immense dramatic quality. How different the reading of Jakobi and Eisenlohr comes out. Jakobi again swallows letters and has rhythmic problems ("Stöhnt dort dumpfig, tief ein schweres, leeres Qualerpreßtes Ach!"), her "Ewigkeit" marks no decisive moment and Eisenlohr plays the last accord without any further meaning. This is a upright reading, but nothing that could say anything more than playing and singing the notes as written.

It would be easy to call this disc superfluous, because there are a lot of alternative recordings. But that would simplify it too much. I have tried to illustrate some prominent points of my criticism and disappointment via two examples and there would be more to go on. Beyond criticism by dissection the general impression after having heard the disc several times leads to the same opinion. The single lied are not characteristic in their reading; one sounds like another. Even in the two cases where different settings to music of the same poem is presented, there is no development or new reading perceptible. They appear to be interchangeable, no matter whether they deal with themes of Greek antiquity (Die Bürgschaft or Hektors Abschied) or the complaints of a maiden (Des Mädchens Klage); no matter whether they are love songs (An Emma) or allegoric verses (Die vier Weltalter).

This is even more surprising as the CD comes with an informative booklet, that gives the text (in German and English) and comprehensive notes on every song, commenting on differences in the texts, the musical development of lieder and Schubertís role in the form.

We should not forget that this CD is only one of many from a complete "Schubert-Lieder-Edition" that is scheduled for completion by 2005. And after the promising discs with German baritone Roman Trekel there is legitimate hope for a high-quality continuation of the project.

Uwe Schneider

For reviews of other releases in this series,
see the Naxos Deutsche Schubert-Lied Edition page


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