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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Franz SCHUBERT (1792 - 1828)
Sehnsucht (Nur wer di Sehnsucht kennt), D310, 1st Version
Rastlöse Liebe, D138
Nähe des Geliebten, D162
Die Liebe (Klärchens Lied/Freudvoll und leidvoll), D210
Sehnsucht (Nur wer di Sehnsucht kennt), D310, 2nd Version
Gretchen am Spinnrade, D118
Szene aus Faust, D126
Gretchen im Zwinger, D126
Sehnsucht (Nur wer di Sehnsucht kennt), D359
Suleika I (Was bedeuted die Bewegung), D720
Suleika II (Ach um deine feuchtedn Schwingen), D 717
Sehnsucht (Nur wer di Sehnsucht kennt), D481
An Mignon, D161
Mignon und der Harfner (Nur wer di Sehnsucht kennt), D877
Mignon I (Heiss mich nicht reden), D726
Mignon II (So lasst mich scheinen), D727
Wonne der Wehmut, D260
Schweizerlied, D559
Die Spinnerin, D247
Die Leibende schreibt, D673
Lied der Mignon (Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt), D877
Lied der Mignon (Heiss mich nicht reden), D877
Lied der Mignon (So lasst mich scheinen), D877
Mignon (kennst du das Lan?), D321
Ruth Ziesak (soprano)
Christian Elsner (tenor)
Ulrich Eisenlohr (piano)
Recorded at Radiosudio, Zurich, 15th, 16th July 2002, 31st October, 1st November 2002
Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition 13 - Goethe Lieder, Vol 2.
NAXOS 8.554666 [69.16]


Naxos’s Schubert-Lied Edition is organised by poet and this volume is the second of Schubert’s Goethe Lieder. The first volume was sung by the baritone Ulf Bästlein. Here we have the soprano Ruth Ziesak, accompanied by Ulrich Eisenlohr. Eisenlohr is the artistic director of the series but he does not appear on every disc.

Not surprisingly, in a recital of Schubert’s Goethe settings sung by female voice, Mignon and Gretchen feature quite strongly. Of the 24 songs on the disc, half of them relate to Mignon. This is partly because Schubert seems to have compulsively re-worked these songs, setting the same poems repeatedly. There are 5 settings of ‘Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt’ including one done as a duet. This introduces the tenor, Christian Elsner who appears in this and another duet as well as being allocated ‘An Mignon’ for his pains. In ‘An Mignon’, Goethe the poet was commenting on Mignon so it makes sense to include the song on this disc but have it sung by a male voice.

Gretchen features in three of the songs. Besides the well known ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’, the recital features two excerpts from Schubert’s abortive Faust opera. Gretchen im Zwinger is a haunting incomplete piece. The third excerpt is the ‘Szene aus Faust’, which takes place during the singing of the requiem. A harmonically complex recitative between Gretchen and the Evil Spirit is periodically interrupted by the choir singing verses from the Dies Irae. Here Christian Elsner sings both the Evil Spirit and the choir, skilfully managing to differentiate between them both. One final dramatic work by Goethe is featured; the song ‘Die Liebe’ is taken from his drama ‘Egmont’.

This is an attractive and well structured recital. Ruth Ziesak has a pleasing, rather plangent voice whose melancholy cast suits the nature of many of these songs. You will not go far wrong if you buy this disc, but it highlights one of the weaknesses of Naxos’s series. By allocating all of the discs to young German singers we do get singers singing in their native tongue; this is a positive advantage. But the singers can lack the experience required to bring out the best in these songs. Ziesak sings with commendable diction, but she does not always make a good connection between words and music. Her interpretations are rather generalised and she does not adequately vary her tone. The art of lied singing involves storytelling and Ziesak does not do this often enough and her singing lacks intensity. By not varying her tone and not drawing the listener in, Ziesak runs the danger of monotony. She is at her best in the more strophic songs and at her weakest in such items as the more complex Suleika songs, which set texts by the 30 year old Marianne von Willemer with whom the 65 year old Goethe had a passionate affair. Eisenlohr is an exemplary accompanist and his playing is one of the joys of the record. Christian Elsner acquits himself well and I would like to hear more of him.

One of the joys of this sort of disc is the discovery of items which you have forgotten or never knew. This was true for me of the two duets, ‘Mignon and the Harper’ and the ‘Scene from Faust’. Elsner helps give these two pieces a strong impact.

This is an attractive disc and at super budget price it is highly recommendable. But most people seriously interested in this repertoire will need to invest in another disc as well. EMI’s Janet Baker set, which covers quite a lot of this repertoire, is very well worth investigating.

Robert Hugill

see also review by Colin Clarke

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

 

 



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