Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Vier Zigeunerlieder, Opus 112 Nos. 3-8 (1891)
Rosmarin, Opus 62 No. 1 (1874)
O süsser Mai, Opus 93 No. 3 (1884)
In stiller Nacht (Deutsche Volkslieder No. 8)
Quartette, Opus 112 Nos. 1-2 (1891)
Funf Gesänge, Opus 104 (1888)
Gesänge fur Frauenchor 2 horns and harp, Opus 17 (1860)
All meine Herzgedanken, Opus 62 No. 5 (1874)
Waldesnacht, Opus 62 No. 3 (1874)
Abschiedlied (Deutsche Volkslieder No. 9)
Quartette, Opus 92 (1884)
Trinitatis Kantorei/Per Enevold
Ellen Refstrup (piano), Susanne Skov and Irene Lewis (horns), Sofie Guillois (harp)
Recorded 2001-2, Songenfri Kirke, Virum


This imaginatively compiled collection explores some really interesting byways of the Brahms catalogue, but it is not all that it seems. The issue is that much of the music cannot in truth be called 'profane choral works', as the title details tell us. There are the delightful Gesänge for women's chorus, with two horns and harp, and other pieces for mixed voices, but the remaining items are better described as profane vocal chamber works. Having made the point there is no need to labour it, however, since the repertoire featured remains of the highest quality, though little known, while the performances are of the highest calibre.

Those early gesänge were written before Brahms left Hamburg for Vienna. For several years he conducted the Hamburg Women's Chorus, and he therefore wrote music for them. The four pieces are in three parts and set various writers, including Shakespeare (Twelfth Night). The instrumental combination of two horns and harp is so particular that it affects the music very strongly; one wonders whether the opening poem by Ruperti, 'The rich tones of the harp resound', set the composer's imagination working. The music is sensitive and the more interesting for it. The restrained dynamics are beautifully delivered by the Trinitatis Singers, their wistful quality caught by the recorded perspective too.

At the other end of Brahms's career lie the six Quartets, Opus 112. These are separated in the programme, and reasonably so, since the first two are set to texts by Franz Kugler while the remaining four are what the composer described as 'gypsy songs'. The collection must have been made for the convenience of publication, though some artists might choose to perform the complete group of six, so that the directness of the last four will clear away the introspective doubts of the first two. Since the Trinitatis group choose to avoid that path, it would be wrong to reprogramme their performances, and it is only fair to judge the pieces separately and on their own terms, not least because they are so pleasing. In fact the gypsy numbers go with such a swing that the virtuoso approach brings out the best in this aspect of Brahms's musical personality.

The five Gesänge, Opus 104, are unaccompanied and for mixed chorus, the composer's last secular choral works. The imageries tend towards the autumnal, and as such are typical of Brahms's later years. Therefore the vocal delivery must be subtle rather than forthright, a challenge the Trinitatis Kantorei meet with distinction. These pieces are every bit as important to an understanding of the composer's final years as, say, the late piano pieces or the Clarinet Quintet, and these performers are splendid advocates.

There are full texts and translations in the well produced booklet, though some of them are rendered difficult to read by the choice of grey shading on half the paper (what purpose does this serve?).

The individual items, taken from larger collections, complete an interesting and varied collection. With good, well-balanced, sound these performances make up an unusual and distinctive programme that serves this great composer well.

Terry Barfoot

see also Brahms Sacred Choirmusic


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