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THE COMPLETE AKSEL SCHIØTZ RECORDINGS 1933-1946: Vol. 4
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Die schöne Müllerin D.797: 1. Das Wandern, 6. Der Neugierige, 7. Ungeduld, 8. Morgengruss, 10. Tränenregen, 11. Mein, 15. Eifersucht und Stolz, 17. Die böse Farbe, 19. Der Müller und der Bach, 20. Des Baches Wiegenlied
Recorded May 26th 1939 (1, 8), August 28th 1939 (6, 7), November 17th 1939 (10, 11), March 15th 1940 (15, 17, 19, 20)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Per pietà, non ricercate

Unissued test recording, recorded March 1st 1938
Christoph Ernst Friedrich WEYSE (1774-1842)

Lysets Engel gaar med Glans, I Fjerne Kirketaarne hist, Skøn Jomfru, luk dit Vindu op
Recorded December 30th 1939, November 18th 1939, October 7th 1938
Johan Peter Emilius HARTMANN (1805-1900)

Lær mig, Nattens Stjerne, op. 63, Liden Kirsten, op. 44: Sverkelís Romance
Recorded October 7th 1938, January 3rd 1941
Peter Erasmus LANGE-MÜLLER (1850-1926)

Der var engang: Serenade, Midsommervise
Recorded April 15th 1941
Knudåge RIISAGER (1897-1974)

Mor Danmark

Recorded May 26th 1939
SCHUBERT/Henri BERTÉ

Lilac Time: Excerpts (in Danish)
Recorded January 17th 1941
Aksel Schiøtz (tenor), Gerald Moore (piano) (Schubert 1, 8, Riisager), Herman D. Koppel (piano) (Schubert 6, 7, 10, 11, 15, 17, 19, 20, Weyse, Hartmann op. 63), Grete Kordt (piano) (Mozart), Royal Orchestra, Copenhagen/Johan Hye-Knudsen (Hartmann op. 44, Lange-Müller), Inger Stender, Axel Búsen, Else Colber, Sigurd Langberg, Petrine Sonne, Karen Marie Løwert, Poul Reichardt, with Aage Juhl Thomson and his orchestra (Schubert/Berté)
Items with Gerald Moore recorded in London, other locations (presumably Danish) not given; dates as above
Original HMV recordings transferred at the Abbey Road Studios by Andrew Walter
DANACORD DACOCD 454 [72:18]

Brief biographical notes on the great Danish tenor Aksel Schiøtz can be found in my review of Vol. 1. Volume 2 consisted principally of his 1945 recording, with Gerald Moore, of Die schöne Müllerin, a recording which remains essential listening for all who care about Schubert and about lieder singing. The principal offering in Vol. 4 are the two songs from the same cycle which Schiøtz recorded with Moore in 1939 and the eight songs which are all we have of an abandoned cycle with Herman Koppel from 1939-40.

Though Denmark was occupied by the Nazis in 1940 its position remained ambivalent for some years since its democratic government remained in office until 1943 when a full jackbooted dictatorship was imposed. Thus Danes, though not enjoying the isolated freedom of non-belligerent Sweden, were relatively at liberty to come and go within their own country. To travel outside, however, required the permission of the Nazis, thereby putting the applicant in the position of an effective collaborator, something which Schiøtz staunchly refused to do. His career was therefore confined to Denmark in these years. Furthermore his regular collaborator in so many recordings, Herman Koppel, being a Jew, got out while he still could and fled to Sweden in 1940. Schiøtz was under some pressure not to sing German lieder at this time but he strongly maintained that the culture which had produced Schubert, Schumann and Brahms had nothing to do with the repulsive politics of the Nazis and continued to sing their music until 1943. However, the Danish people would hardly have flocked to buy records of lieder in those days and it is not surprising that no attempt was made to complete Müllerin with another pianist.

What the Danish public did readily buy, in the face of the threat to their national identity, was records of songs by their own native composers, and here the problem was that the masters of the many records of such songs which Schiøtz had made before 1940 were in London. Therefore the 1938/9 Weyse, Hartmann and Riisager recordings here were made again by Danish HMV in 1940/43 while the 1941 Hartmann and Lange-Müller recordings are in their turn re-makes of discs cut in 1938/9. All this alternative material is to be found in Vols. 5-7 of the present series.

Taking first the two Schubert songs recorded with Gerald Moore in London, a comparison with the 1945 recordings reveals that the voice had acquired greater baritonal solidity in the intervening six years, though advances in recording technique may contribute to this impression. The downward portamento is revealed to have been a constant in Schiøtzís style but the tendency was to use it less over the years. In 1939 a gentle downward swoop colours the end of the first phrase of Das Wandern, and thereafter every time this same phrase occurs. It is quite tastefully done, but its elimination in 1945 is all to the good.

When it comes to actual interpretation the increased range of the later performances is striking. Das Wandern is interpreted in 1939 as a gentle little tone picture, complete in itself. In 1945 the tempo is faster (all five stanzas take 02:45, while in 1939 the fourth was omitted, yet they took 02:29 even so) and the song is felt to be an introduction to something larger. There is also greater variety between the stanzas. The 1939 Morgengruss has a misty, trancelike quality which is treasurable; interestingly, this mood is reserved in 1945 for the third stanza, omitted in 1939. Though the 1939 recordings have their own special qualities they ultimately underline the greater depth of the later ones.

The attempted cycle with Koppel is quite a different matter, since it gives us a fascinating glimpse of what would have been a performance with a quite different character. Moore was at heart a classically-based musician. The excitement he creates in Eifersucht und Stolz or Die böse Farbe derives from his tight control of the semiquavers, with very little pedal, while Koppel offers a more impressionistic view. Koppel, it would seem, was the more romantic, impulsive musician, and tempi are inclined to be extreme in both directions. Ungeduld, in the version with Moore, goes at a tempo exactly gauged to allow the words their value; in the more impetuous Koppel version words risk spilling over one another in their excitement (but cold mathematics tells us that it is only two seconds shorter!). Des Baches Wiegenlied with Koppel lasts 04:35 against 04:49 with Moore, but this disguises the fact that with Koppel only three stanzas are sung, in almost the same time as it takes to sing four in the performance with Moore. The Koppel performance is certainly beautiful, but I am sure Schiøtz with Moore hit the right tempo; all five stanzas at Koppelís speed would not be an enticing prospect, however beautifully sung. In Tränenregen and elsewhere Koppelís piano interludes sometimes drift off into tempi of their own while Moore is more rigorous, but Koppel does at times succeed in creating a poetic atmosphere beside which Moore can seem literal. I feel it is a great pity this cycle was not completed (when they jumped to the end of the cycle in the 1940 sessions, did they realise they would do no more?); the result would have given us two complementary performances and endless illumination in passing from one to the other.

I mentioned in earlier reviews that the 1945 recordings sometimes show signs of strain deriving from the tumour which was affecting Schiøtzís vocal chords. However, comparison between 1939/40 and 1945 produces conflicting evidence. The final Gs of Eifersucht do seem more ringingly secure in 1940; on the other hand the As of Ungeduld are better placed in 1945, perhaps because Moore allows him a little more time to get them. The leap from B to G sharp towards the end of Des Baches Wiegenlied is a little effortful in the first and third stanzas both times, and equally beautifully managed in the last both times (itís easier to do when the vowel is an "o"). So it looks as if the problem derives from a slight chink in his technical armoury rather than encroaching illness, but I shall listen to the recordings from the mid-thirties with great interest.

The Mozart test recording tells a tale of pretty well unalloyed vocal beauty; it was never intended for issue and is not complete.

The Weyse songs are very simple, strophic pieces, caressed into life by Schiøtzís honeyed tones; of rather more interest to non-Danish singers is Hartmannís very attractive Lær mig, Nattens Stjerne (Teach me, Star of the night). Unfailingly romantic, too, are the operatic items by Hartmann and Lange-Müller. Knudåge Riisager is notable as the composer of an attractive Trumpet Concertino recorded by George Eskdale (available on DANACORD DACOCD 523-4). Reading the words I expected a sort of Danish "Land of Hope and Glory" but this is a disarmingly intimate piece which must nevertheless have kept many hopes alight in its day.

The "Lilac Time" excerpts are brief and their existence only goes to show that even this most modest and musicianly of tenors was nonetheless a tenor and thus constitutionally unable to break free of Hans von Bülowís dictum that "a tenor is not a voice, it is a disease".

The booklet notes by Arne Helman are, as ever in this series, full of interest. They also include a spirited defence of the much-maligned poet of Die schöne Müllerin, Wilhelm Müller: "At their best, however, the Müller poems seem to me superior to Heineís selfconsciousness and superficiality which do not wear well". Students of German poetry, over to you!

I suppose this is ultimately a more specialist issue than Vols. 2 and 3. But if your lieder library is a large one and if you have already fallen under the spell of Schiøtzís later complete Müllerin I think you will not regret hearing his rather different renderings of eight of the songs with Koppel.

Christopher Howell



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