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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]

Experience Classicsonline


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 song.
 
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.
 
William Hedley 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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