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CD: Crotchet AmazonUK AmazonUS

Hans Hotter: The Great Bass Baritone
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Ich habe genug BWV82
Lieder and operatic scenes by Brahms, Schubert, Grieg, Schumann, Loewe, R Strauss, Pfitzner, Wolf, Orff and Wagner.
Hans Hotter (bass baritone)
For full list of contents see below
rec. 1948-1958, Mono/Stereo. ADD
EMI CLASSICS ICON 2649012 [6 CDs: 443:00]
Experience Classicsonline

If ever there was an icon in the opera world then surely the bass-baritone Hans Hotter (1909-2003) was it. EMI Classics have done us all a service by releasing what is, in effect, his complete EMI recordings at such an attractive price. It focuses on his lieder output, but every aspect of his career is touched upon and we are provided with as good a survey of this magnificent artist as one could hope for.
The set begins with his famous performance of Bach’s great cantata, Ich habe genug.  The Penguin Guide describes this recording as “one of the greatest of all cantata performances”.  They do not exaggerate.  The playing is thick and heavy to our modern ears, and the recording is musty at best; but such singing!  Hotter inhabits the world-weariness of the first movement unlike any singer I have come across: here is a soul that has seen it all and is now ready to pass on.  He then achieves a miraculous resignation in the great lullaby, Schlummert ein, achieving comfort through transcendence.  His huge voice is not cut out for the coloratura of the finale, but it remains an amazing feat of singing.  This much re-released performance sounds as good as ever it did, the accompaniment of the Philharmonia, and the aristocratic oboe line of Sidney Sutcliffe, shedding fresh light at every turn.
The bulk of the set consists of lieder collections, of which the pinnacle is Hotter’s Schubert.  His 1954 Winterreise is a titanic achievement, carved in granite.  This interpretation of the great cycle is unremittingly bleak from the outset, an effect which comes across even in his choice of keys for most of the songs: the opening is quite startling in its darkness.  Not only is his musicianship peerless, but there is a palpable sense of pain in his articulation of the words.  Among the highlights are the growing sense of horror in Gefrorene Tränen and the vacant airiness with which he addresses the crow in Die Krähe.  Even the lighter songs, like Frühlingstraum have a darkened tinge to them and there is a transcendent weariness to the cemetery scene, Das Wirtshaus.  At every turn, Gerald Moore’s accompaniment is a model of sensitivity and illumination, nowhere more so than in the final song, which is taken daringly slowly.  There is no consolation for the singer as he meets the hurdy-gurdy man: instead the air of unrelenting darkness closes in on him, the voice becoming a mere whisper at times.  Magnificent.
Of course, Schwanengesang carries a greater kaleidoscope of moods, each of which is met with confidence.  After Winterreise the pastoral optimism of the first song, Liebesbotschaft, comes as a welcome relief.  The warrior’s song, Kriegers Ahnung, is much darker and deeper, though, and there is a wonderfully questioning tone to FrühlingssehnsuchtDer Atlas is truly titanic, while Die Stadt is almost apocalyptic, Moore’s accompaniment mirroring the rippling waves magnificently.  If anything, though, the voice sounds even fresher in the 1949 songs caught on the same disc.  The same gravitas and authority are there but there is a cleaner brightness to the voice which entirely matches the repertoire chosen.  The contrast moving straight from the end of the 1954 Schwanengesang to the 1949 An die Musik is striking and illuminating.
The other lieder are every bit as rewarding.  Hotter’s Brahms is magnificent, the voice sounding truly sepulchral for the Four Serious Songs.  The early songs, such as Sonntag, are nicely lightened, and we are even treated to the third movement of the German Requiem, recorded with Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic in 1947.  The performance is steady, though the sound is dull and the chorus work isn’t up to the usual Singverein standards.  The other collections are most winning, especially the songs by Loewe, not a composer I’m familiar with, but who Hotter treats with affection and elegance, enriched again by Moore.  Grieg’s Ich liebe dich is unfailingly lyrical, and he captures the pathos of Schumann’s two grenadiers with drama and power.  The Strauss and Pfitzner are effective, as is the group by Wolf.  The Wolf collection has long been a classic and here it illustrates the lieder singer’s masterful skill as well as anything else on the set.
The few operatic extracts are saved for last.  The brief moment from Der Mond is fine, if a somewhat random inclusion.  Far more significant is La Roche’s monologue praising the theatre from Capriccio.  Hotter himself premiered the role of Olivier in this opera in 1942, but his monumental La Roche remains unmatched today, capturing all of the character’s humanity and passion together with his - and by extension Strauss’s - belief in the power of the theatre.  Hans Sachs was a role Hotter sang very few times and his extracts here seem oddly detached and a bit cursory.  The same cannot be said of his 1957 duets recorded with Birgit Nilsson.  These extracts, available now on a number of different labels, are absolutely magical.  The two greatest Wagnerians of their day, and perhaps any day since, are caught at the peak of both their powers.  The Dutchman duet moves from gently questioning hope to exultant jubilation, while the final scene of Walküre is beyond praise.  This was recorded a full ten years before they assumed the roles on Solti’s complete set.  The voices are fresher and more exciting here, and they convey the feeling of a live performance admirably.  The pathos in Hotter’s voice as he kisses away his daughter’s godhead is immensely moving, and Nilsson plays Brünnhilde with all the fiery recklessness of youth.  Wonderful.
All told, then, this is an essential set for lovers of one of the most authoritative yet beautiful voices the gramophone has had the privilege to capture. At this super-bargain price it’s a real no-brainer.  Regrettably, though not surprisingly, there are no texts or translations, though there is an informative essay by Richard Wigmore to introduce the set.
Simon Thompson

Full Tracklist
CD 1 [75:34]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685–1750)
Ich habe genug BWV82
1 Aria: Ich habe genug
2 Recit: Ich habe genug!
3 Aria: Schlummert ein
4 Recit: Mein Gott! wann kommt das schöne Nun!
5 Aria: Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod
Geraint Jones (organ), Sydney Sutcliffe (oboe) Philharmonia Orchestra/Anthony Bernard
rec.22, 24 March 1950, Kingsway Hall, London
Johannes BRAHMS (1833–1897)
Ein deutsches Requiem Op.45
6 III. Herr, Lehre doch mich
Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien, Wiener Philharmoniker/Herbert von Karajan
rec.20–29 October 1947, Musikvereinssaal, Vienna
Vier ernste Gesänge Op.121
7 I. Denn es gehet dem Menschen
8 II. Ich wandte mich und sahe an alle
9 III. O Tod, o Tod, wie bitter bist du
10 IV. Wenn ich mit Menschen
Gerald Moore (piano)
rec.11, 12 November1951, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
11 Feldeinsamkeit Op.86 No.2 (Allmers)
12 Mit vierzig Jahren (Rückert)
Gerald Moore (piano)
rec.22 May 1951, No.3 Studio, Abbey Road, London
13 Wir Melodien zieht es mir Op.105 No.1 (Groth)
14 Sonntag Op.47 No.3 (Uhland)
15 Minnelied Op.71 No.5 (Hölty)
16 Wir wandelten Op.96 No.2 (Daumer)
17 Wie bist du, meine Königen Op.32 No.9 (Daumer)
Gerald Moore (piano)
rec.19, 20 May 1956, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
CD 2 [75:02]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797–1828)
Winterreise D911 (Müller)
1 Gute Nacht
2 Die Wetterfahne
3 Gefror’ne Tränen
4 Erstarrung
5 Der Lindenbaum
6 Wasserflut
7 Auf dem Flusse
8 Rückblick
9 Irrlicht
10 Rast
11 Frühlingstraum
12 Einsamkeit
13 Die Post
14 Der greise Kopf
15 Die Krähe
16 Letzte Hoffnung
17 Im Dorfe
18 Der stürmische Morgen
19 Täuschung
20 Der Wegweiser
21 Das Wirtshaus
22 Mut
23 Die Nebensonnen
24 Der Leiermann
Gerald Moore (piano)
rec.24–27, 29 July 1954, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
CD 3 [77:51]
Schwanengesang D957
1. Liebesbotschaft (Rellstab)
2. Kriegers Ahnung (Rellstab)
3. Frühlingssehnsucht (Rellstab)
4. Ständchen (Rellstab)
5. Aufenthalt (Rellstab)
6. In der Ferne (Rellstab)
7. Abschied (Rellstab)
8. Der Atlas (Heine)
9. Ihr Bild (Heine)
10. Das Fischermädchen (Heine)
11. Die Stadt (Heine)
12. Am Meer (Heine)
13. Der Doppelgänger (Heine)
14 Die Taubenpost (Seidl)
rec.28–30.V.1954, No.3 Studio, Abbey Road, London
15 An die Musik D547 (Schober)
16 Meeresstille D216 (Goethe)
17 Im Frühling D882 (Schulze)
18 Am Bach im Frühling D361 (Schober)
19 Gruppe aus dem Tartarus D583 (Schiller)
rec.1, 2.X.1949, No.3 Studio, Abbey Road, London
20 Geheimes D719 (Goethe)
21 Sei mir gegrüsst D741 (Rückert)
22 Im Abendrot D799 (Lappe)
rec.3, 4.X.1957, No.3 Studio, Abbey Road, London
23 Wanderers Nachtlied I D224 (Goethe)
24 Wanderers Nachtlied II D768 (Goethe)
rec.1, 2 October 1949, No.3 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Gerald Moore (piano)
CD 4 [72:42]
1 Wohin? (No.2 of Die schöne Müllerin) (Müller)
Edvard GRIEG (1841–1907)
2 Ich liebe dich (H. C. Andersen/von Holstein)
Michael Raucheisen (piano)
rec.6 September 1950, Rheingau-Schule, Berlin
Robert SCHUMANN (1810–1856)
3 Wer machte dich so krank? Op.35 No.11 (Kerner)
4 Alte Laute Op.35 No.12 (Kerner)
5 Erstes Grün Op.35 No.4 (Kerner)
6 Die beiden Grenadiere Op.49 No.1 (Heine)
7 Mondnacht (No.5 of Liederkreis Op 39) (Eichendorff)
rec.4, 5 October 13, 16 November 1957, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Carl LOEWE (1796–1869)
8 Edward Op.1 No.1 (Herder)
9 Der Erlkönig Op.1 No.3 (Goethe)
10 Odin’s Meeresritt Op.118 (Schreiber)
11 Die wandelnde Glocke Op.20 No.3 (Goethe)
12 Hinkende Jamben Op.62 No.5 (Rückert)
rec.4, 5 October 18 November 1957, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Johannes BRAHMS (1833–1897)
13 Komm bald Op.97 No.5 (Groth)
14 Heimkehr Op.7 No.6 (Uhland)
15 Wenn du nur Zuweilen lächelst Op.57 No.2 (Daumer)
16 Sapphische Ode Op.94 No.4 (Schmidt)
17 Botschaft Op.47 No.1 (Daumer after Hafis)
18 Ständchen Op.106 No.1 (Kugler)
19 O wüsst ich doch den Weg zurück Op.63 No.8 (Groth)
20 Auf dem Kirchhofe Op.105 No.4 (Liliencron)
21 Verrat Op.105 No.5 (Lemcke)
22 In Waldeseinsamkeit Op.85. No.6 (Lemcke)
23 Sommerabend Op.85 No.1 (Heine)
24 Mondenschein Op.85 No.2 (Heine)
Recorded 19–21, 31 May 1956, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London)
Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
25 Ach, weh mir unglückhaftem Mann Op.21 No.4 (Dahn)
26 Ich trage meine Minne Op.32 No.1 (Henckell)
rec.16, 18 November 1957, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Hans PFITZNER (1869–1949)
27 Der Gärtner (Eichendorff)
rec.6 October 1957, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Gerald Moore (piano)
CD 5 [67:00]
Hugo WOLF (1860–1903)
1 Der Tambour (No.5 of Mörike-Lieder, 1888)
2 Ob de Koran von Ewigkeit sei? (No.34 of Goethe-Lieder, 1888–89)
3 So lang man nüchtern ist (No.36 of Goethe-Lieder, 1888–89)
4 Schon Streckt’ ich aus im Bett (No.27 of Italienisches-Liederbuch, 1890–96)
5 Ein Ständchen Euch zu bringen (No.22 of Italienisches-Liederbuch, 1890–96)
6 Anakreons Grab (No.29 of Goethe-Lieder, 1888–89)
rec.21, 22.V.1951, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
7 Wohl denk’ ich oft (No.1 of Drei Gedichte von Michaelangelo, 1897)
8 Alles endet, was entstehet (No.2 of Drei Gedichte von Michaelangelo, 1897)
9 Fühlt meine Seele (No.3 of Drei Gedichte von Michaelangelo, 1897)
10 Cophtisches Lied I (No.14 of Goethe-Lieder, 1888–89)
11 Cophtisches Lied II (No.15 of Goethe-Lieder, 1888–89)
12 Grenzen der Menscheit (No.51 of Goethe-Lieder, 1888–89)
13 Prometheus (No.49 of Goethe-Lieder, 1888–89)
14 Wer sich der Einsamkeit (Harfenspieler I – No.1 of Goethe-Lieder, 1888–89)
15 An die Türen (Harfenspieler II – No.2 of Goethe-Lieder, 1888–89)
16 Wer nie sein Brot (Harfenspieler III – No.3 of Goethe-Lieder, 1888–89)
17 Geselle, woll’n wir uns in Kutten hüllen (No.14 of Italienisches-Liederbuch, 1890–96)
rec.3–5, 7, 8 May 1953, No.3 Studio, Abbey Road, London
18 Verborgenheit (No.12 of Mörike-Lieder, 1888)
19 Der Musikant (No.2 of Eichendorff-Lieder, 1880–1888)
20 Fußreise (No.10 of Mörike-Lieder, 1888)
21 Nimmersatte Liebe (No.9 of Mörike-Lieder, 1888)
rec.5, 6 October & 13, 14, 16, 18 November 1957, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
CD 6 [74:56]
Carl ORFF (1895–1982)
Der Mond
1 Der Wein ist gut
Paul Kuén (tenor), Karl Schmitt-Walter, Helmut Graml (baritones) Peter Lagger (bass)
Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra/Wolfgang Sawallisch
rec.16–20 March & 16, 18, 24 April 1957, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Capriccio (Krauss)
2 Holà! Ihr Streiter in Apoll! (Scene 9)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Wolfgang Sawallisch
rec.2–7, 9–11 September1957 & 28 March 1958, Kingsway Hall, London
Richard WAGNER (1813–1883)
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
3 Und doch, s’will halt nich gehn (Act II)
4 Doch eines Abends spat (Act III)
Wiener Philharmoniker/Meinhard von Zallinger
rec.9, 10 December 1948, Musikvereinssaal, Vienna
Der fliegende Holländer
5 Wie aus der Ferne (Act II)
Die Walküre
6 War es so Schmählich.....
7 Leb wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind! (Act III)
Birgit Nilsson (soprano) Philharmonia Orchestra/Leopold Ludwig
rec.16–19 October 1957, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London


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