Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Hans HOTTER: Lieder and Operatic Scenes - 1942–1973
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828):

Winterreise D 911* [70’22"]
Recorded in the Brahms-Saal, Vienna, 15-18 December 1961
Gruppe aus dem Tartarus D 583 [3’34"]
Im Frühling D 882 [4’21"]
Recorded in the Sofiensaal, Vienna, 1 – 5 May and 16 August 1973
Schwanengesang D 957 (excerpts)
‘Liebesbotschaft’ [3’16"]
‘Die Stadt’ [2’57"
‘Der Doppelgänger’ [4’23"]
‘Die Taubenpost’ [3’47"]
Alinde D 904 [4’45"]
An dies Entfernete D 765 [2’30"]
Hugo WOLF (1860 –1903):

Mörike Lieder (excerpts)
‘Die Tambour’ [2’30"]
‘Nimmersatte Liebe’ [2’19"]
‘Jägerlied’ [1’07"]
‘Denk es, o Seele’ [3’10"]
Italienisches Liederbuch (excerpts)
‘Der Mond hat eine schwere Klag’ erhoben’ [1’45"]
‘Heb auf dein blondes Haupt’ [2’06"]
‘Schon streckt’ ich aus’ [1’59"]
‘Ein Ständchen Euch zu bringen’ [1’21"]
Drei Lieder nach Gedichten von Michelangelo

‘Wohl denk’ ich oft an mein verganges Leben’ [2’05"]
‘Alles endet, was entstehet’ [4’47"]
‘Fühlt meine Seele das ersehnte Licht’ [4’40"]
Spanisches Liederbuch, Part II (excerpts)
‘Wenn du zu den Blumen gehst’ [2’52"]
‘Wer sein holdes Lieb verloren’ [2’19"]
Der Musikant [1’47"]
Der Soldat I [1’25"]
Anakreons Grab [3’00"]
Der verzweifelte Liebhaber [0’58"]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949):

All mein’ Gedanken, mein Herz und mein Sinn Op. 21, No. 1 [1’24"]
Nachtgang Op. 29, No. 3 [3’04"]
Du meines Herzens Krönelein Op. 21, No. 2 [2’11"]
Gefunden Op. 56, No. 1 [2’16"]
Himmelsboten Op. 32, No. 5 [3’17"]
Ach, weh mir unglückhaftem Mann Op.21, No.4 [2’21"]
Recorded in the Sofiensaal, Vienna, 1 – 5 May, 6 August 1973; 14 May, 1975
Carl LOEWE (1796-1869):

Odins Meeresritt, Op. 118 [5’10"]
Die wandelnde Glocke Op. 20, No 3 [2’03"]
Hochzeitlied Op 20, No 1 [5’23"]
Hinkende Jamben Op. 62, Heft 1 No 5 [1’02"]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Auf dem Kirchhofe Op. 105, No 4 [2’54"]
Rühe, Süssliebchen, im Schatten Op. 33 No 9 [5’33"]
Mit vierzig Jahren Op. 94, No 1 [3’56"]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901):

Aida: ‘Wheh, mein Vater!’ – ‘Zu dir fürht mich
ein Ernster Grund’ ** [7’16"]
Recorded in the Grosser Musikvereinsaal, Vienna, 19-21 March 1961
Otello: ‘Ich glaube an eine Gott’*** [4’20"]
‘Zur Nachtzeit war es’*** [3’06"]
Recorded in Munich, April 1943
Georges BIZET (1838-1875):

Carmen: ‘Euren Gruss kann ich wohl erwidern’ ***** [3’02]
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)

Pagliacci: ‘Schaut her, ich bin’s’ ****** [4’37"]
Recorded in Berlin, April 1942
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883):

Der Fliegende Holländer: ‘Die Frist ist um’*** [8’45"]
Recorded in Munich, April 1943
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg:

‘Was duftet doch die Flieder’****** [6’43"]
Recorded in Berlin, April 1942
‘Wahn, Wahn, überall Wahn’******* [7’00"]
Die Walküre:

‘Leb wohl du kühnes, herrliches Kind’******* [8’45"]
Recorded in Berlin November – December 1942
Hans Hotter (bass-baritone)
Geoffrey Parsons (piano)
*Erik Werba (piano)
** Gloria Davy (soprano); Staatliches Wiener Volksopern-Orchester conducted by Arego Quadri
*** Bayerisches Staatsorchester conducted by Heinrich Hollreiser
***** Chor und ****** Orchester des Deutschen Opernhauses, Berlin conducted by Artur Rother
******* Orchester der Staatsoper, Berlin conducted by Robert Heger
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON Original Masters 474 006-2 [3CDs: 78’17"+76’31"+80’11"]


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

It is good that, alongside Wilhelm Furtwängler, Eugen Jochum, Wilhelm Kempff and the Janáček Quartet DG have chosen to celebrate the great bass-baritone, Hans Hotter (b.1909) by including him in the first release of their new “Original Masters” series. As one of the greatest singers of the post-Second World War generation he fully merits his ranking with such illustrious company.

As will be seen from the contents list much of the set is devoted to his lieder recordings, with the lion’s share devoted to Schubert though there is also a useful selection of operatic extracts.

Almost all of the first CD is devoted to Hotter’s 1961 recording of Der Winterreise. This was the singer’s third version of the cycle. Previously he had recorded it in 1941-2 with that doughty champion of lieder, Michael Raucheisen (a version which I have not heard) and later, in 1954, he set down a recording for EMI in which he was partnered by Gerald Moore. I found that comparisons between the 1954 and 1961 versions were entirely in favour of the earlier account with the sole proviso that the 1954 recording is, perhaps inevitably, rather less full than the DG remake.

I should say at once that there is little in Hotter’s singing which will disappoint. For me the problem lies elsewhere. The main drawback to this recording, I’m afraid, lies in the rather routine piano playing of Eric Werba. Time and again when I compared the Werba and Moore contributions I found Gerald Moore displaying greater imagination and a more obvious sense of fantasy. This is especially evident in Moore’s masterly use of rubato. By comparison, Werba’s playing seems almost devoid of rubato. In case it should be thought that I am exaggerating, the playing of Geoffrey Parsons who accompanies all the remaining lieder in this collection also shows all too graphically what is missing in Werba’s playing.

I suspect that it is principally due to Moore’s greater flexibility and willingness to take expressive risks that the 1954 recording takes four and a half minutes longer overall than does the 1961 remake. The earlier account just seems to have that much more space though neither Moore nor Hotter is reluctant to impart urgency as is evident from their account of ‘Erstarrung’ (CD 1, track 4 in the DG compilation). Another example where I have a clear preference for the 1954 version is ‘Der Wegweiser’ (CD 1, track 20) where Moore plays with what I’d call "pointed legato" where, by comparison, Werba just seems to play the notes. Not surprisingly, it is Moore who provokes a greater response from Hotter. In the following song, ‘Das Wirtshaus’ (track 21) Werba is heavier, more portentous than Moore in the 30-odd second prelude but to my ears he conveys far less.

As we get to the incomparable songs with which the cycle concludes I find that the differences between the 1954 and 1961 versions become ever more stark. Thus ‘Das Wirtshaus’ sounds almost routine in 1961 by the side of the daring and sustained 1954 account, which is nearly one minute longer. The 1954 version is a rapt account which Hotter and Moore bring to a searing final climax. The final, brief postlude is dignified yet ineffably sad in Moore’s hands; Werba just can’t match this degree of intuition and communicative skill. By sheer economy of means and force of musical personality Hotter and Moore convey huge emotions in the last two songs, ‘Die Nebensonnen’ and ‘Der Leiermann’ (on DG, CD1, tracks 23 and 24) and they are hypnotic in the latter.

It may seem strange that I’ve devoted so much attention to the accompaniment in reviewing a recording which is designed to showcase a singer. However, truth to tell, I don’t feel that Hotter had fundamentally rethought his interpretation of Winterreise between 1954 and 1961 and I’m convinced that it is the superior contribution of Gerald Moore which makes the 1954 traversal so much more satisfying. As I said, I don’t detect significant differences in Hotter’s singing of the songs. Though he is very sensitive to the words you won’t find much of the verbal acting which distinguishes, say, Peter Schreier’s magnificent account with András Schiff (sample Schreier in ‘Die Krähe’ to see what I mean) What distinguishes Hotter’s reading of the cycle in both his recordings under discussion is his ability to project the melodic line on a seemingly endless flow of breath and his skill in refining his huge voice expertly so as to maintain the intimacy necessary for lieder. His 1961 collaboration with Werba is good and has much to commend it but his earlier partnership with Moore produces results which are consistently masterly and it would be perverse to say otherwise.

So if you buy this set you’ll acquire a decent reading of Winterreise but I’d recommend that you also acquire, if possible, the 1954 account (last available on EMI Références) as an essential supplement.

The remaining lieder in this DG set all appear to originate from two Decca LP recitals set down in 1973 and 1975 when Hotter was in his sixties. Age had not brought about any noticeable reduction in the quality of his singing and the involvement of a much more perceptive and illuminating accompanist in the shape of Geoffrey Parsons reaps huge dividends. So, for instance, Hotter gives us a towering ‘Gruppe aus dem Tartarus’ (CD 1, track 25), though I feel that an earlier account, set down in 1949 for EMI, again in partnership with Gerald Moore, is even more urgent and heroic.

This DG set also offer four songs from Schwanengesang. I’m not sure if these are taken from a complete recording of the cycle; I suspect not. There is an earlier (1949) complete recording which Hotter and Gerald Moore made for EMI. Here the comparisons suggest that choice between the older and more recent versions is much less clear-cut than was the case with Winterreise. The 1973 traversal of ‘Der Doppelgänger’ (CD 2, track 3) is truly riveting; Hotter gives a sonorous, louring interpretation of menacing power and dark foreboding. Here Wotan confronts Schubert. After that ‘Die Taubenpost’ (track 4) comes as more of a relief than usual – here, perhaps unsurprisingly, I detected a bit more lift and lightness in Hotter’s singing in his 1949 version. However the 1973 account will certainly not disappoint.

The lieder of Hugo Wolf call for, and here receive, much more vocal characterisation than is appropriate for those of Schubert. On the evidence of these recordings Hotter took the view that Schubert required a more classical, less interventionist, style but he brings to Wolf the full range of his theatrical powers. The very first Wolf song, ‘Der Tambour’ (CD 2, track 7) is a case in point. The range of expression deployed here by Hotter makes one regret there are no Mahler songs in this collection (did he ever record any, I wonder?). Throughout the 17 Wolf songs included here Hotter sings with wit and fantasy and Geoffrey Parsons’ accompaniments provide consistent additional interest.

I’d single out especially the three Michelangelo songs (CD 2, tracks 15-17). The rarefied eloquence of these songs, Wolf’s last utterances, seems especially suited to Hotter. He gives magnificent performances which are both subtle and deeply felt. For me these are a highlight of the entire collection. I must mention one other Wolf song, however, ‘Anakreons Grab’ (CD 2, track 22), which Hotter delivers with a superb feeling of innigkeit, receiving marvellous support from Parsons.

If I pass over the six Strauss lieder I wouldn’t wish this to imply that they represent any falling off in standards. Quite the reverse is true. All the songs are very well done and gave me much pleasure.

So, too, did the group of Loewe songs which constitute a nicely varied little selection. Best of all, I thought were the two more substantial songs. ‘Odins Meeresritt’ (CD 3, track 1) is rendered compellingly and vividly. Here we find Hotter’s skills in narration and characterisation well to the fore. He also relates ‘Hochzeitlied’ (track 3) with relish and an abundance of varied vocal colouring. I also admired the delicacy which he brings to the brief ‘Hinkende Jamben’ (track 4)

The lieder selection ends with a group by Brahms which Hotter once again brings off very successfully. He gives a powerful rendition of ‘Auf dem Kirchhofe’ (CD 3, track 5) while in ‘Ruhe, Süssliebchen, im Schatten’ (track 6) he displays once again his sovereign command of line in a beautiful, easeful piece of singing.

The remainder of CD 3 is devoted to opera and, with the exception of the opening excerpt from Aida, these are all from relatively early on in Hotter’s career, having been set down in 1942 and 1943. All the items are sung in German and I must say I was a bit surprised to find this practice extending to the 1961 rendition of the Aida duet (track 8), as this was presumably a recording intended for international release. Here Hotter is an imposing Amonasro and he is effectively partnered by Gloria Davy in the title role. The use of German does take some getting used to, however.

The other items were no doubt intended mainly for domestic German consumption and I can much more readily understand why German was used in all cases. Hotter produces a riveting account of Iago’s diabolic ‘Credo’ (track 9) but I found that the use of German rather than the original Italian imparted a completely different character to the music. As Escamillo (track 11) he is powerful but I wasn’t completely convinced; there seems to be a lack of Mediterranean warmth.

With the Wagner extracts, however, we are on Hotter’s home turf, so to speak. He gives us a vivid, tortured portrayal of the Dutchman, with singing of great intensity (track 13). In two different sessions he presents a warm, commanding yet humane view of Hans Sachs (tracks 14 and 15), making one regret that the two excerpts only give us about 14 minutes-worth of the role.

Arguably, the best is left till last with a fairly early glimpse of Hotter in the role with which he became especially identified. Has there ever been a greater, more rounded exponent of Wotan / the Wanderer? Here, despite the fact that the recording is sixty years old, burnished, heroic tone just comes pouring out of the loudspeakers as Hotter gives a towering performance of Wotan’s Farewell. The years roll back and we hear surely the Wotan of the second half of the last century in all the glory of his youthful voice. This is a majestic final track and a fitting way to end this celebration of this great singer - actually, I couldn’t resist cheating and this was the first track I played when I received the discs for review; other collectors might wish to do likewise.

This is a good point at which to say that the 1940s recordings have all been well transferred by DG. There is good body to the orchestral sound, surface hiss is subdued and I doubt it will bother anyone. Hotter’s voice is properly prominent without being overwhelmingly to the fore. The lieder recordings, being of much more recent vintage all reproduce well. I’m less enamoured with other aspects of the package. The notes take the form of a multi-lingual portrait of the singer which is satisfactory as a brief introduction to his art. Sadly DG spoil everything by failing to provide texts or translations. I know this is a budget priced issue but even so the lack of words seriously compromises the listener’s enjoyment and, in my view, devalues this tribute to a great singer.

This, then, is something of a mixed bag. The lieder with Geoffrey Parsons are uniformly excellent. However, pace the author of the liner notes, the recording of Winterreise is not Hotter’s best. The Italian and French operatic arias may not be to everyone’s taste sung in German but the Wagner extracts are superb. On balance, since this is a set offered at budget price, the pluses outweigh the minuses and the set can be recommended not just to all admirers of Hans Hotter but also to all connoisseurs of great singing.

John Quinn

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