Samples & Downloads
Dunkel oder Licht
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Der Strom, D. 565 [1:42]
Auf der Donau, D. 553 [3:25]
Fahrt zum Hades, D. 526 [4:30]
Grenzen der Menschheit, D. 716 [7:08]
Der Pilgrim, D. 794 [4:33]
Grablied für die Mutter, D. 616 [2:32]
Hoffnung, D. 637 [2:54]
Wandrers Nachtlied, D. 768 [2:19]
Die Mutter Erde, D. 788 [3:32]
Der Jüngling und der Tod, D. 545b [3:52]
An der Tod, D. 518 [1:20]
Der Tod und das Mädchen, D. 531 [2:29]
Totengräberweise, D. 869 [4:56]
Totengräberlied, D. 44 [2:28]
Das Grab, D. 569 [3:24]
Totengräbers Heimweh, D. 842 [6:19]
Litanei auf das Fest Allerseelen, D. 343 [2:08]
Cornelius Hauptmann (bass); Eric Schneider (piano)
rec. Spring 1996, Reitstadel, Neumarkt, Germany
CARUS-VERLAG 83.359 [59:34]
This recital was recorded in 1996, but I can find no evidence
of any previous release. It comes out now on the house label
of the distinguished German music publisher, Carus-Verlag. The
recording is full and rich with balance between voice and instrument
as close to perfect as you could wish. The booklet prints all
the sung texts in German with English translation. There is
some general information about the singer and the accompanist,
but nothing about the music. Instead you will find a rather
pointless essay by Hera Lind in which she reflects on the nature
of the programme.
And the programme, entitled “Dark or Light”, is
made up entirely of songs on the subject of mortality and death.
We shouldn’t be surprised, then, if the overall effect
is sombre. Cornelius Hauptmann has the perfect voice for this
repertoire. His recorded credits include Sarastro with Sir Roger
Norrington, as well as many others where a real bass voice is
required. His lower register is strong and true, and though
he does manage to lighten the tone when required, there’s
very little even of a baritone quality when he ventures into
the upper reaches. The voice is darkly beautiful, and he sings
throughout with understanding and intelligence.
His accompanist, Eric Schneider, proves a splendid partner.
His playing is full of character, the duo a real collaboration.
Inevitably, many of the songs are given in transposition for
low voice, and this does not make life easy for the pianist.
Transposed down a major third to G flat major, the accompaniment
to Hoffnung, for example, could sound very gruff indeed.
But Schneider works wonders with it, as does Graham Johnson,
only a semitone higher, accompanying the divine Marjana Lipovšek
on Hyperion. The song is a tricky one to bring off: its title,
“Hope”, leads us to expect an optimistic song, but
there is considerable irony too, with references to planting
hope on one’s grave. Hauptmann is very successful in the
role of insouciant youth, but also possesses just the right
gravity to encompass the other elements in the song. At a slightly
faster tempo, Marjana Lipovšek is more seductive. Both
views are valid and satisfying.
Hauptmann’s ability to bring variety of colour into his
singing is evident in the pianissimo passages in Wanderers
Nachtlied. The real test, however, is how well he manages
to impersonate the Maiden in D. 531; Death, we might think,
will come more naturally to him. In fact he manages very well,
and it is only in direct comparison with one or two female singers,
notably Brigitte Fassbaender, again on Hyperion, that one hears
the breathlessness of the Maiden’s entreaties brought
out in a more natural way. Hauptmann’s reading is nonetheless
very convincing, and his voice serves him wonderfully well for
the second part of the song, though some will find the final
bottom D flat is perhaps one sepulchral note too far.
The programme has been well devised, with some lighter moments.
Totengräberweise, already surprisingly cheerful,
is followed by a gravedigger’s song that could almost
be a buffo aria from a Mozart opera. In both cases the singer
characterises very well, skilfully lightening his voice the
better to bring out the comic elements in D. 44.
A dark, bass voice is a considerable advantage in a song such
as Das Grab. Here, with alarming prescience and daring
for a twenty year-old, Schubert frequently has the voice and
piano in unison, the more to evoke the cold stillness of the
grave. Hauptmann sings three of the prescribed five verses of
This most satisfying recital ends with the beautiful “Litany
for the Feast of All Souls”. Hauptmann and Schneider create
a wonderfully calm atmosphere here, and the performance is one
of the finest of all. It is disappointing, however, and puzzling
too, that of the many verses of this strophic song - the poem
appears to have seven verses - they choose to perform only one.
Janet Baker, with Geoffrey Parsons on EMI, sings three, which
is probably enough. But to hear the sublime three-bar piano
postlude only once is a pity, and Hauptmann’s performance
certainly sounds incomplete.