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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition 20 - Poets of Sensibility, Volume 3: Der Tod und das Mädchen D.531 [02:22]; Der Leidende (3rd version) D.432 [01:48]; Totengräberlied D.44 [02:03]; Lied/Die Mutter Erde D.788 [03:50]; Der Leidende D.432 (2nd version) D.432 [01:44]; Die Nonne D.208 [08:25]; Täglich zu singen D.533 [01:38]; Klage D.371 [02:49]; Stimme der Liebe D.412 [01:54]; Seufzer D.198 [01:09]; An eine Quelle D.530 [01:52]; An die Apfelbäume; wo ich Julien erblickte D.197 [02:38]; Die frühe Liebe D.430 [02:04]; An den Mond D.193 [03:06]; Abendlied D.499 [02:53]; Klage D.436 [01:41]; Auf den Tod einer Nachtigall (1st setting; fragment) D.201; Auf den Tod einer Nachtigall (2nd setting )D.399; Auf dem Wasser zu singen D.774 [03:55]; Lied in der Abwesenheit (fragment) D.416 [01:43]; Der Liebende D.207 [01:41]; Minnelied D.429 [01:54]; Der Traum D.213 [02:03]; Seligkeit D.433 [02:12]
Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone); Ulrich Eisenlohr (Hammerflugel)
rec. 30 November – 5 December, 2004, Bayerische Rundfunk Studio 2, Munich, Germany
NAXOS 8.557568 [60:59]

This is the first of the Naxos Schubert edition to have come my way for some time. I’ve read comments elsewhere about some of the earlier volumes from which it appears that the choice of some less well-known or less experienced singers may have resulted in a reduction in quality. No such reservations need apply here for the songs have been entrusted to an experienced and distinguished singer. Indeed, the Austrian baritone, Wolfgang Holzmair made highly regarded recordings of all three of Schubert’s great song cycles for the Philips label some years ago.
He’s in excellent voice on this occasion and his unfailingly musical line and his palette of vocal colouring gives consistent pleasure. More than this, these qualities, together with his responsiveness to the texts command the listener’s attention at all times, which is as well in one or two settings that are, frankly, less than top-drawer Schubert.
Just as Graham Johnson did with his Hyperion intégrale, the deviser of this edition, Ulrich Eisenlohr, has sensibly opted for a thematic choice of songs in each volume. With equal good sense he has split up the ‘plums’ so that his singers offer us a mixture of familiar and less well-known lieder.
This does mean that there are quite a few slight compositions included here, such as Täglich zu singen D. 533 and Die frühe Liebe D.430. Several of the songs are incomplete fragments, such as Lied in der Abwesenheit D. 416. But no matter how slender the material Holzmair and Eisenlohr treat each item with the same degree of affection and musicianship. One piece that particularly caught my ear was the very last one in the recital, Seligkeit D.433, which Holzmair delivers with a delightful, easy lilt. This makes a thoroughly charming end to the CD.
There are a few songs that are more familiar, especially to the non-specialist collector. Der Tod und das Mädchen D.531 opens the proceedings and it is done well. I greatly enjoyed Auf den Tod einer Nachtigall D.399. This is a graceful, rather elevated strophic setting and it’s extremely well sung by Holzmair, who spins a most persuasive musical line. This is one of the best things on the disc. It’s followed by Auf dem Wasser zu singen D.774, one of my favourite Schubert songs. It’s well sung but, just for once, I made a comparison, taking down from the shelf at random Dame Janet Baker’s EMI recording. Baker’s tempo is faster and more flowing than Holzmair’s – she takes forty five seconds less – and this is immeasurably to the benefit of the piece, which acquires more fluency and urgency in her version.
Actually, it was not to compare the singing that I took out this Baker recording. I wanted to compare the accompaniments. My colleague, Christopher Howell, has addressed the issue of the use of a fortepiano in his review of this CD and I refer collectors to his detailed comments, to which it would be superfluous to add. I will say, however, that it was in Auf dem Wasser zu singen that my reservations about the accompaniment came to the fore. I don’t know whether it’s the instrument or a deliberate stylistic choice by Ulrich Eisenlohr but the accompaniment that he provides here is relentlessly staccato, the very antithesis of the fluid, rippling and subtle playing that Geoffrey Parsons provides for Dame Janet. I’m afraid I find Eisenlohr’s accompaniment to this song tinkling and unvaried and, whilst I can take the fortepiano sound in most of the songs on this disc, in this one instance it severely compromised my pleasure. It may be authentic but I’m afraid I don’t like it.
However, there’s much to enjoy here and I’m glad to hear Wolfgang Holzmair venturing off the beaten Schubertian track. It’s a pity that the texts and translations are only available on the Naxos website. I don’t find that the most convenient way to access texts and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. And it really is essential to have the texts and good translations to hand since most of these songs will be unfamiliar – and you particularly need the words for a substantial and narrative offering like Die Nonne D.208. Ulrich Eisenlohr contributes an informative and scholarly note. My only criticism of this is that he does rather go to town in describing Der Tod und das Mädchen, which leaves him insufficient room to deal fully with some of the other offerings.
Collectors who are following this series can invest with confidence and those who have not yet sampled it could do a lot worse than start here. The singing of Wolfgang Holzmair is highly enjoyable and I’m happy to recommend his contribution to this series.

John Quinn
see also reviews by Anne Ozorio and Christopher Howell


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For reviews of other releases in this series,
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