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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 


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Symposium Records  

 

 

Sir George Henschel (1850-1934)
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Die Schöne Müllerin - No.1 Das Wandern (1794-1827) [2:19]                        
Winterreise - No.24 Der Leiermannd D911 (1827) [2:33]       
Lachen und Weinen D777 [1:56]         
Gruppe aus dem Tartarus D583 [3:09]
Carl LOEWE (1796–1869)
Heinrich der Vogler [3:03]       
Der Erlkönig (1818) [3:21]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Dichterliebe - No.7 Ich grolle nicht Op.48 (1840) [1:42]
Lied eines Schmiedes [1:21]    
Die beiden Grenadiere Op.49 No.1 [3:33]
J W FRANCK           
Wait thou still [3:16]    
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Ten Biblical Songs Op.99 - No.7 By the Waters of Babylon     (1894) [3:14]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No.1 in C major Op.21 (1799-1800) [26:45]
Orchestra of the Royal Philharmonic Society
recorded in the Scala Theatre, London
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)         
Sarabande in D arranged Henschel from Suites for solo Cello No.6 BWV 1012 [3:50]
Sarabande in E flat arranged Henschel from Suites for solo Cello No. 4 BWV 1010 [3:05]
George HENSCHEL (1850-1934)
Sicilienne [2:46]           
Beatrice Harrison (cello) and George Henschel (piano)
Spring  [3:19]
Emma Eames (soprano) with George Henschel (piano)
Morning Hymn [2:31]  
Gervase Elwes (tenor) with George Henschel (piano)
Mein müdes Augen [1:54]
George Henschel (baritone and piano)
rec. 1908-29
SYMPOSIUM 1362 [73:54]


 

Henschel’s recording of Beethoven’s First Symphony was once available on a Past Masters LP (PM17) where it was coupled with Oscar Fried’s recording of the Second, made in 1924. I admit I’ve not listened to it in years, perhaps writing it off as a bit commonplace. But I listened again when this Henschel compilation arrived and can happily report that the CD is a better transfer than the LP was – more open, catching upper frequencies better, less veiled. There are one or two moments of blasting but they pass pretty quickly. The performance sounded better than I remembered it but in comparison with, say, Pfitzner’s 1928 reading or the 1937 Weingartner it did still strike me as rather staid, especially in the outer movements. This was however Henschel’s only recording as conductor and is a valuable contribution to our understanding of him as a musician – not just as a singer.

And it was as a singer, and a noted self-accompanist, that he made an important position for himself. His visits to the recording studios were few and essentially boiled down to one acoustic series and one electric. There were a few other visits when he acted as accompanist to Beatrice Harrison and to other singers, all acoustic recordings. Symposium’s selection is not a complete edition and nor does it pretend to be. Many of Henschel’s vocal acoustics have been reissued over the years, as indeed have many of his electrics. This collection gives us the later discs many of which, in any case, are electric remakes of the acoustic sides.

Even in the later discs, made when he was in his late seventies and well past his vocal best, the impression he leaves is one of imperishable conversational style. It’s not the same thing as Bispham’s narrative declamation. Henschel’s art has its narrative continuity but it also has a remarkable improvisatory quality that elevates it well above the usual run of lieder singing. It’s this ability to inhabit, to enliven and to convey the narrative essence that makes him so distinguished a practitioner. It’s certainly not the voice as such, which had become rather hollow, dry and uneven in his last years. He’s a little unsteady in Das Wandern for instance. And in respect of his self-accompaniment there are times when one feels him struggling with the piano part so that the vocal production can suffer; certainly there are tiny moments when he seems to go “off mike” – maybe he involuntarily moved his head, maybe not.

The booklet notes advance the idea that because the earlier acoustic G & Ts were themselves quite “primitively” recorded – we can argue about that – it’s not possible to tell whether Henschel’s voice had deteriorated by 1928. Actually it’s perfectly possible and indeed essential and quite obvious that it has. The artistry however remains intact. So that the Dvořák – in English translation – emerges as something almost heroically noble and the J.W. Franck, again in German-accented English carries with it a sentiment and affecting simplicity. 

The sides with Harrison preserve Henschel’s own arrangements and the cellist’s ripely romantic instincts for portamento and tone; they’re not new to CD but are important documents for admirers of his piano playing and indeed for admirers of Harrison’s cello playing. Accompanying Emma Eames in the one American-made recording here we find her immaculate in her trills, splendid in technique and rather cold.  He also made one side with the baritonal tenor Gervase Elwes, ironically killed in Boston where Henschel had much earlier conducted the newly founded orchestra between 1881 and 1884. And as an envoi there’s an apparently private recording of Henschel singing and playing his own song, Mein müdes Augen.

The transfers are honest and honourable – no dampening, fidelity to the letter even at the expense of surface noise. The biographical notes are useful though as ever I wish Symposium would make their actual track listings and details more user-friendly.

Jonathan Woolf

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