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CD: Crotchet

Othmar SCHOECK (1886-1957)
Unter Sternen (Under the Stars) Song Cycle to Poems by Gottfried Keller (1941-43):
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone)
Hartmut Höll (piano)
rec. Berlin, February 1986, DDD
CLAVES CD 50-8606 [58:25]

CD: Crotchet


Othmar SCHOECK (1886-1957)
Das Holde Bescheiden, Op. 62 (The Just Measure) - Song Cycle to Poems by Eduard Mörike (1947-49)
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone)
Mitsuko Shirai (mezzo)
Hartmut Höll (piano)
rec. January-February 1991, March 1992, Berlin, Villa Lankwitz, Berlin, July, August 1993, Tonstudio van Geest, Sandhausen/Heidelberg. DDD
CLAVES CD 50-9308/9 [54:41 + 55:37]
Experience Classicsonline

These songs are related to the Schubert-Schumann manner looking back to the grand romantic style but carried forward into the last century. 

Unter Sternen
could not have existed without Schumann and the sweet tradition of German folksong though they are not so enchained as to imitate. The resilience and self-renewing nostalgia kept the genre flower and fruit as late as these songs written some 120 years after the decades when the Lied was in its heyday. Produced at the height of the Second World War the cycle carries no hint of world events. The melodic contours are always in touch with 'song' even if occasionally the trance-like lunar states implied by Keller's poems are subtly coloured with dodecaphonic apparatus most evident in the piano line. The music also carries the stigmata of expressionism so the cover illustration - a bejewelled spray of detail from a Klimt - is apposite.

The range of mood is wider than the first three songs suggest. Many are slow or moderato as befits a starry philosophical stance. Few are less than lovely. There are some faster moving songs such as Unter Sternen (tr. 5) and Unruhe der Nacht (tr. 7). Waldlied II (tr. 9) is fine and statuesque. Several are serenades or have that character: In der Trauer (tr. 19) and Ein Tagewerk I (tr. 23). I can see these melancholic-ecstatic serenades appealing to devotees of Gurney (Five Elizas and the F.W. Harvey settings) or Warlock (Here Lies a Most Beautiful Lady or In an Arbour Green).

The German notes are by Georg-Albrecht Eckle and are translated to French and English. The sung texts are printed but there are no translations.

Fischer-Dieskau, fresh-voiced, intelligently etching every syllable, makes wondrous use of an instrument that should by the time of these sessions have been threadbare. Compare the quaver and tremble of John Carol Case's 1970s Lyrita LP of Let Us Garlands Bring. DF-D must have had the vocal equivalent of a Dorian Gray portrait in the basement! He is fortunate in the sympathetic and sensitive company of Hartmut Höll.

Das holde Bescheiden is Schoeck’s last and epic song-cycle and the songs are more varied than in Unter Sternen. The cycle is divided into five sections: Nature, Love, Observation, Belief and Reminiscence. The premiere took place on 25 April 1949 in Stuttgart with the composer’s wife Hilde, accompanied by the composer. The present set, first issued in 1993, is not only the cycle’s premiere recording but also Fischer-Dieskau’s final studio session.

On the first disc there are some ringing songs such as the sanguinely belled out Auf der teck from F-D and the turbulent Wagnerian cross-currents of Mein Fluss and Zu viel from Shirai. Im Park is flighty and will-o-the-wisp in DF-D’s hands. The second disc is notable for the wondrous undulating piano work in Nachts and the helden tone in Antike Poesie. Tragedy and awe can be heard in the wildly assertive heroic Keinerettung. There’s angularity and dissonance in Impromptu. There’s even more discord in the monumental piano statements of Die enthusiasten. DF-D is again miraculous in the coaxing of Trost. The testing quarter hour long Besuch in Urach has a great sense of journey's end in Schoeck's triumphant dénouement. This last song is dense with allusion and the grandest rhetoric. Holl is often called on to play liquid arpeggiation; the evoked image of water seems something of a theme for Schoeck.

The booklet texts are in German only. It’s a pity there are no English translations.

Across these settings Schoeck's poignant lyrical gift never fails him once - not even in old age. He stands as one of the great figures in the school of song as practised by the German-speaking peoples. Hearing these two discs one wonders at Holl's sensitive touch. Then again there’s Shirai's power and her well judged restraint across her 14 allocated songs. Fischer-Dieskau's frugal and well weighted marshalling of his voice is to the fore even in the twilight of his singing career.

Claves have done wonderfully well to keep these monuments to the lieder art in their catalogue. Would that their brethren at Jecklin-Disco would cast caution to the wind and issue a boxed set of all twelve volumes of their Schoeck lieder series as issued in the late 1990s. It's tragic that they are no longer available. And while we are on the Schoeck trail may I again encourage Boydells, or Toccata or Ashgate to commission a translation of Christopher Walton's German language study of Schoeck's life and music and publish this.

Rob Barnett 

Track listing
Unter Sternen
Trost der Kreatur
Siehst du den Stern
Stille der Nacht
Unter Sternen
Abendlied an die Natur
Unruhe der Nacht
Waldlied I
Waldlied II
Das Tal
Wir wähnten lange recht zu leben
Flackre, ew'ges Licht im Tal
Die Zeit geht nicht
Trübes Wetter
FrühlingsIn der Trauer
Den Zweifellosen I und II
Tod und Dichter
An das Herz
Ein Tagewerk I und II

Das Holde
CD 1
Widmung (Shirai) [2:38]
Natur; An Einem Wintermorgen (Shirai) [6:35]
Gesang Zu Zweien In Der Nacht [5:10]
Am Walde [1:58]
An Philomele [2:11]
Auf Der Teck [1:30]
Das Mädchen An Den Mai [1:26]
Im Park [1:19]
Mein Fluss (Shirai) [3:53]
Liebe; Lose Ware [2:40]
Ritterliche Werbung [1:24]
Die Schwestern [1:45]
Schön-Rohtraud [3:27]
Peregrina [6:32]
Zu Viel [2:09]
Nachts Am Schreibepult [1:34]
Aus Der Ferne [6:18]
Nur Zu! [2:13]
CD 2
Betrachtung; Auf Eine Lampe [1:41]
Nachts [3:10]
Antike Poesie [2:05]
Erinna An Sappho [6:04]
Johann Keppler [3:01]
Keine Rettung [0:39]
Nach Dem Kriege [0:36]
In Ein Authographenalbum [0:27]
Impromptu [0:23]
Die Enthusiasten [0:57]
Trost [2:06]
Auf Ein Ei Geschrieben [1:52]
Auf Einen Klavierspieler (Shirai) [2:01]
Restauration [1:17]
Glaube; Gebet [1:37]
Der Hirtenknabe [1:22]
Auf Ein Kind [1:03]
Zu Einer Konfirmation [2:43]
Muse Und Dichter [1:59]
Auf Dem Krankenbette [0:54]
Der Geprüfte [4:05]
Ruckblick; Besuch In Urach [15:36])



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