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alternatively Crotchet


Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
(for detailed track listing see below)
Siegfried Lorenz (baritone), Norman Shetler (piano)
rec. Lukaskirche, Dresden, March 1987 (CD 1), September 1986 (CD 2), November 1985 (CD 3), September 1974 (CD 4), May 1976 (CD 5), July 1980 (CD 6), March 1983 (CD 7 tr. 1 – 22), March 1977 (CD 7 tr. 23 – 31 and CD 8)
German texts enclosed
BERLIN CLASSICS 0184142BC [8CDs: 68:00 + 78:40 + 54:07 + 61:48 + 60:12 + 54:56 + 78:00 + 77:55]

Experience Classicsonline

“Who is singing? Is it Fischer-Dieskau?” my wife asked when she came in during Wohin?, the second song of Die schöne Müllerin. When I told her it was Siegfried Lorenz she just shrugged and said: “Never heard of him. He sounds like F-D.” And of course she was right. His phrasing is exquisite, he sings off the text, his soft singing is beautiful and full of emotion and character. He can muster tremendous power too, but then his tone sometimes hardens and occasionally spreads. All this could also be said about Fischer-Dieskau and it comes as no surprise to read in the booklet that what first inspired him at the age of 15 to become a Lieder-singer was when he heard Fischer-Dieskau singing Die Winterreise. He is far from the only baritone of his generation to have had this ideal and he is no imitator but rather a very committed and intelligent artist who has seen F-D’s way of communicating as compatible with his own ideas.

Like Fischer-Dieskau he has penetrated Schubert’s songs for many years and this 8 CD-box is the result of assiduous study and a long-term plan for the recordings, stretching from September 1974 to March 1987, saving the most demanding works, the three song cycles until the very end. During such a long period in a singer’s life there are developments and changes of voice quality and interpretative insight – the earliest songs were recorded when he was still in his 20s while by the time of Die schöne Müllerin he was well past forty. Still what is most notable is the consistency of approach and voice quality. It is possible to detect some more strain and slight widening of vibrato in the later recordings, where, especially during the 1983 sessions (the first 2/3 of CD 7), he seems to have been in less than sterling form. This is however only marginally an issue and only by direct comparison with his younger self.

His accompanist, the American pianist Norman Shetler, is an experienced musician and having worked together for such a long time they know each other’s intentions. What worried me a little was his tendency to level the dynamic markings. When the score says pp he is likely to play mp and when the score indicates ff it becomes at the most f. I can feel a certain lack of contrast in his playing. This is not so, however, with the readings at large, since it is still the vocal line that carries the central communicative burden.

The songs – the three cycles plus another 93, in toto 151 songs, which constitute roughly a quarter of the total oeuvre – are thematically arranged according to authors. Within the discs there is no strict musicological or chronological principle and each CD constitutes a well contrasted programme, ready for an armchair recital. Among the individual songs we find many of the most loved ‘evergreens’ but also quite a few that are rarely heard and scarcely available outside the complete editions on Hyperion and Naxos. Buying this box means that a beginner will be the owner of a substantial collection in one go and probably won’t need another for years to come.

It isn’t practicable – and hardly necessary – to go into a lot of detail for such a grand undertaking but I’ll point to a few things that may be of importance for the prospective buyer. Die schöne Müllerin is deeply felt and admirably well controlled. His soft singing is certainly on a par with Fischer-Dieskau’s and apart from some four-square phrasing – Mein! – and one or two instances where the singer’s powers are stretched to the limits – the end of Trockne Blumen – this is a reading to rate with the best. The two final songs are wonderfully saturated with sincerity.

I would say that Die Winterreise is even better with a marvellously well shaped Lindenbaum as a turning point. From there on the intensity grows inescapably to the extended climax group of Einsamkeit, Die Post, Der greise Kopf and Die Krähe and the bleakly resigned final songs, where Die Nebensonnen makes time stand still.

Schwanengesang is no cycle and it’s not even Schubert’s title but his publisher’s. Even so these late songs form a unity of their own. They are sharply contrasted and require a singer with power as well as sincerity. Siegfried Lorenz doesn’t seem quite as assured here as in the ‘real’ song cycles and to carry the pains of the world, as Atlas has to do, seems to floor him. On the other hand Ständchen is soft and warm and Am Meer gets a superb hushed reading.

The Goethe songs was his first Schubert recording and here he is at his freshest and most vital. He also seems more outgoing than in the previous volumes. Erlkönig offers excellent enunciation and clear-cut differentiation of the characters. An Schwager Kronos is gloriously sung and so is the nuanced and powerful Prometheus and, one of Schubert’s grandest songs: Grenzen der Menschheit. Well-known songs like Der König in Thule and Heidenröslein are also inward and simple. Generally speaking Goethe inspired Schubert to some of his finest settings. It is a pity that only too late did he realise Schubert’s genius.

Schiller’s poetry is even more challenging and sometimes the texts are so dense that there is little to add. Of the six settings on this disc Der Taucher, which is an early work by Schubert, is possibly the most impressive. The 27 (!) stanzas constitute a long narrative of operatic dimensions, dramatic, poetic and with an immensely active piano part. It is through-composed and it is quite stunning how well the young composer mastered a style of composition that really had no parallel even in contemporary opera. Schubert had an unrequited love of opera and critics are unanimous in their views: his operas lack dramatic potential. This scene is dramatically effective but presumably too bold to present on the stage at the time. Lorenz’s reading is also impressive. The other long song, Der Bürgschaft, by the mature Schubert, is also through-composed.

Mayrhofer was a lesser poet than Goethe and Schiller but very often good songs are settings of mediocre poetry. Where there is little or no depth in the words, the music can provide what is missing. Three personal favourites on this disc are Nachtviolen, sensitively sung in a manner to recall an early HMV recording with Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore; the powerful Der Schiffer and that towering masterpiece Lied eines Schiffers an die Dioskuren. Again it is Fischer-Dieskau that comes to mind.

The major part of CD 7 seems to derive from a set of sessions where Siegfried Lorenz wasn’t in best voice. It is uncharacteristically dry and the readings seem less than fully developed. Die Forelle, for example, which invariably manages to make its mark, is rather straight-faced and short on charm and in several of the songs Lorenz sounds strained and uncomfortable. The softer songs fare better and both Der Tod und das Mädchen and Auf dem Wasser zu singen are excellent. It has to be stressed that even when he is below his best in vocal terms his deep commitment is never in doubt. Wiegenlied and Abendlied are both beautifully sung in half-voice. The remaining songs on the disc, recorded in 1977, are all superb with Der Wanderer one of the pinnacles of the whole set.

The remaining titles from the 1977 sessions are on the same level with a warm and heartfelt Frühlingsglaube and the rarely heard Glaube, Hoffnunf und Liebe, among Schubert’s last songs, as the pick. It is strange that these superb recordings had to wait six years before they were issued. The sessions from the previous year are also a collection of gems. Readers who don’t recognise some of the titles need not fear: these songs are all worthy of the master, who also provides his own text for Abschied von einem Mutter.

Siegfried Lorenz has all the attributes one expects from a good Lieder-singer. He is an honest and trustworthy guide through the riches on these eight discs. Other singers may have probed even deeper. As a rule it is impossible to pick just one version of a song and say: This is the best! One of the pleasures of being a lover and collector of Lieder is the opportunity to hear different versions of the same songs. Whether one is a jaded collector with sagging shelves or just a beginner these eight discs will provide pleasure for years to come.

The discs come in a 3cm thick box with each CD in a separate cardboard envelope with full tracklists. Then there is a booklet with essays on all the discs and all the sung texts – but only in German.

Göran Forsling

Detailed track listing:
CD 1:
Die schöne Müllerin, Op. 25 D795 [68:00]
CD 2:
Winterreise, Op. 89 D911 [78:40]
CD 3:
Schwanengesang, D957 [54:07]
CD 4:
Lieder nach Goethe
1. Erlkönig, D328 [4:21]
2. Der Schatzgräber, D256 [5:00]
3. Wandrers Nachtlied II, D224 [1:54]
4. Grenzen der Menschheit, D716 [7:43]
5. An Schwager Kronos, D369 [2:53]
6. Prometheus, D674 [6:02]
7. Der Sänger, D149 [7:11]
8. Der König in Thule, D367 [4:15]
9. An den Mond, D259 [3:02]
10. Versunken, D715 [1:55]
11. Liebhaber in allen Gestalten, D558 [1:27]
12. Jägers Abendlied, D368 [3:29]
13. An die Entfernte, D765 [3:12]
14. Willkommen und Abschied, D767 [3:14]
15. Geheimes, D719 [1:42]
16. Heidenröslein, D257 [2:17]
17. Der Musensohn, D764 [2:09]
CD 5:
Lieder nach Schiller
1. Der Pilgrim, D794 [5:28]
2. Der Taucher, D111 [25:48]
3. Der Jüngling am Bache, D638 [4:30]
4. Sehnsucht, D636 [4:05]
5. Die Hoffnung, D637 [3:00]
6. Die Bürgschaft, D646 [17:19]
CD 6:
Lieder nach Mayrhofer
1. Sehnsucht, D516 [3:08]
2. Atys, D585 [4:24]
3. An die Freunde, D654 [4:12]
4. Die Sternennächte, D670 [2:34]
5. Beim Winde, D669 [4:46]
6. Nachtviolen, D752 [2:58]
7. Heliopolis I, D753 [2:56]
8. Der Schiffer, D536 [2:02]
9. Wie Ulfru fischt, D525 [3:22]
10. Auf der Donau, D553 [3:22]
11. Gondelfahrer, D808 [2:19]
12. Nachtstück, D672 [6:16]
13. Der Sieg, D805 [3:47]
14. Zum Punsche, D492 [1:47]
15. Heliopolis II (Im Hochgebirge), D754 [2:09]
16. Geheimnis, D491 [2:32]
17. Lied eines Schiffers an die Dioskuren, D360 [3:30]
CD 7:
Lieder nach verschiedenen Dichtern
1. Die Forelle, D550 [2:10]
2. Fischerlied, D531 [1:51]
3. Pflügerlied, D392 [1:35]
4. Der Jüngling an der Quelle, D300 [1:46]
5. Herbstlied, D502 [1:54]
6. Das Grab, D569 [1:59]
7. An den Tod, D518 [1:32]
8. Geisternähe, D100 [3:37]
9. Der Geistertanz, D116 [2:05]
10. Klage, D415 [2:54]
11. Der Tod und das Mädchen, D531 [2:53]
12. Auf dem Wasser zu singen, D774 [3:31]
13. Stimme der Liebe, D412 [1:58]
14. Täglich zu singen, D533 [1:35]
15. Lied vom Reifen, D532 [1:53]
16. Adelaide, D95 [3:05]
17. Lebenslied, D508 [1:52]
18. Zufriedenheit, D362 [1:11]
19. Skolie, D507 [0:57]
20. Naturgenuss, D188 [2:15]
21. Wiegenlied, D498 [2:58]
22. Abendlied, D499 [3:14]
23. An die Sonne, D272 [2:49]
24. Alinde, D904 [4:19]
25. An die Laute, D905 [1:25]
26. Hippolits Lied, D890 [2:35]
27. Der Leidende, D432 [1:34]
28. Das Heimweh, D356 [2:47]
29. Am Tage Aller Seelen, D343 [4:30]
30. Die Perle, D466 [2:25]
31. Der Wanderer, D493 [4:48]
CD 8:
Lieder nach Dichtern des Freundeskreises
Autobiographische Lieder
1. Sängers Morgenlied, D165 [4:36]
2. Liebeständelei, D206 [1:56]
3. Das war ich, D174 [3:25]
4. Sehnsucht der Liebe, D180 [5:17]
5. Liebesrausch, D179 [1:58]
6. Frühlingsglaube, D686 [3:21]
7. Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe, D955 [5:37]
8. Grablied für die Mutter, D616 [3:02]
9. An die Musik, D547b [2:45]
10. Der zürnende Barde, D785 [1:52]
11. Des Sängers Habe, D832 [3:36]
12. Schatzgräbers Begehr, D761b [4:38]
13. Der Jüngling und der Tod, D545b [4:06]
14. Abschied von einem Freunde, D578 [3:13]
15. Selige Welt, D743 [1:00]
16. Schiffers Scheidelied, D910 [4:29]
17. Der Strom, D565 [1:29]
18. Fischerweise, D881 [3:11]
19. Jägers Liebeslied, D909 [3:58]
20. Widerschein, D949 [4:27]
21. Totengräberweise, D869 [7:12]
22. Schwanengesang, D744 [2:39]





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