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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Franz SCHUBERT (1797 – 1828)
Schiller-Lieder, Vols. 3 and 4 (Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition 18)

CD 1
1. Der Jüngling am Bache (1st setting) D30
2. Das Geheimnis (1st setting) D250
3. Leichenfantasie D7
4. Der Graf von Habsburg D990
5. Der Jüngling am Bache (2nd setting) D192
6. Die Erwartung D159
7. Das Geheimnis (2nd setting) D 793
8. Der Jüngling am Bache (3rd setting, 1st version) D638
CD 2
1. An den Frühling (1st setting) D283
2. Die Götter Griechenlands D677
3. Des Mädchens Klage (1st setting) D6
4. Des Mädchens Klage (2nd setting, 1st version) D191
5. Des Mädchens Klage (3rd setting) D 389
6. Klage der Ceres D323
7. Thekla (eine Geisterstimme) (1st setting) D73
8. Thekla (eine Geisterstimme) (2nd setting, 1st version) D595
9. Thekla (eine Geisterstimme) (2nd setting, 2nd version) D595
10. An den Frühling (2nd setting, 2nd version) D587
Maya Boog (soprano)(CD 2), Lothar Odinius (tenor)(CD 1), Ulrich Eisenlohr (piano)
Recorded at DRS, Zürich, Switzerland from November 10th to 13th, 2004 (CD 1), and from December 2nd to 4th, 2003 (CD 2)
NAXOS 8.557369-70 [51:15 + 47:15]

 

 

The Naxos Schubert-Lied-Edition has come a long way since its auspicious start late in 1998 with one of the best Winterreises in the catalogue (Naxos 8.554471). That version was sung by Roman Trekel with Ulrich Eisenlohr, who is also the pianist on this double CD and the master-mind behind the series. He follows Graham Johnson’s example from the Hyperion Schubert Edition - more or less finished when Naxos started - by providing the booklet notes; very good they are too. In little space he manages to squeeze in a lot of interesting information. The space is only limited when compared to the bumper books that Johnson sometimes enclosed, and they were in English only while Eisenlohr has to compete with himself with texts in two languages. What we don’t get in this issue is the sung texts with translations, but they can be found, as is Naxos’s new policy, at www.naxos.com/libretti.

This series is to be completed before the end of this year (2005), so we can obviously look forward to several more issues soon. Through this traversal of these eternally fresh songs we have been introduced to several excellent singers and one of the best so far (I have missed just three or four of the issues) is to be found on CD 1 of this set.

Lothar Odinius has a fine lyrical tenor with brilliance at the upper end and a surprisingly powerful lower register, something that may point in the direction of, say, Max in Der Freischütz and maybe further on Lohengrin and Walther. So far he has largely confined his singing to Mozart (Ferrando and Tamino). I would think it wise for him to stick to that repertoire, but it will be interesting to follow his development. As it is he has great warmth to complement the brilliance and superb technique with a capacity to sing long phrases on a single breath. He moves effortlessly and imperceptibly between head-voice and chest-voice. His phrasing is exemplary throughout; he makes every phrase tell by means of voice colouring, although he is also keen with the words. He makes the most of the overlong dramatic scene Leichenfantasie (Funeral Fantasy)(CD 1 track 3), not the most suitable subject for a 14-year-old, one would think. Death was so much more part of everyday life in Schubert’s time. I remember when I first heard this song (19 minutes!) with Sir Thomas Allen (Hyperion Schubert Edition – 16) that, in spite of my admiration for Allen’s marvellous mahogany baritone and his power of insight, I doubted that I would ever want to listen to the whole song again. Well, I sat through it and enjoyed every minute. It didn’t feel half as long as it actually was. I even listened to Allen for another 19 minutes and was still enthusiastic. Odinius doesn’t possess the weight of Allen, of course - what tenor does? – but he colours his voice and finds just as many nuances; that is a feat in itself. I compared Odinius with Allen in two more songs, Das Geheimnis D 793 and Der Jüngling am Bache D 638 and he didn’t come in second.

There are not many so-called ‘standard’ songs in this issue but the observant reader may already have noticed that it presents several Schiller texts in alternative settings, ranging from very early (Des Mädchens Klage D6 is Schubert’s first song – bar one) to very near the end of the composer’s life. It is instructive to compare and see the quite different approach to the same text at different times. Listening to Schubert songs is always life-enhancing and even if not all of them are masterpieces there are constantly interesting turns of phrase or just a beautiful melody that is a pleasure to listen to, especially when sung so well as Lothar Odinius does here. This disc is from beginning to end Schubert singing on the highest possible level.

I am more doubtful when it comes to the second disc. Swiss soprano Maya Boog has been around since the early 1990s, singing in particular 18th century repertoire. Her light lyrical voice has been a nimble and attractive instrument. She can sing a fine pianissimo without vibrato in the authentic baroque tradition and then let it expand to very good effect. But she has developed a quite prominent vibrato on high forte notes, which can be irritating, although it is still within the norm for my acceptance. More problematic is a shrillness on high notes ... and sometimes not so high. This is a sound that grates on your ear after a while. There is no denying her involvement and that there is much thought behind her interpretations. She can sing softly and in a heartfelt way as for example in the second setting of Des Mädchens Klage D 191 (CD 2 track 4). Still it is a monochrome rendering, especially when compared to any song with Lothar Odinius who has such a rich palette of colours. And we need only go to Elly Ameling in the same song (Hyperion Schubert Edition – 7) to find a soprano with more nuances, more inflections. Ameling was past fifty then and her vibrato has loosened but she still digs deeper.

Maya Boog has also one of those long (16½ minutes) scenes, Klage der Ceres (CD 2 track 6), where she actually sounds in better shape: the vibrato is nicely controlled, the voice sounds warmer and fuller and the top notes ring out freely and with considerable beauty. As a whole the second half of her disc shows her to much better advantage. Perhaps they were recorded on different days.

Ulrich Eisenlohr, whose masterminding and writings I praised at the beginning of this review, is also a wonderful pianist. His backing of the singers contributes to no small extent to the general success of the whole project; he has been the pianist on the majority of the issues so far. In one or two instances he felt a bit heavy-handed as compared to Graham Johnson (the first few bars of Das Geheimnis D 793 (CD 1 track 7) but that is just the exception that proves the rule.

Most of the songs may be unknown to the non-Schubertians. I have ventilated some reservations concerning the second disc but much is good, the songs are worth hearing and I do urge readers to listen to Lothar Odinius. He is a find!

Göran Forsling

 

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




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