Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Songs for Chorus
Lieder und Romanzen, Op. 93a (1883) [12:00]
3 Gesänge, Op. 42 (1859-61) [8:45]
7 Lieder, Op. 62 (1873-74) [19:11]
5 Gesänge, Op. 104 (1888) [12:03]
4 Gesänge, Op. 17 (1860) [13:28]
Anna Korondi (soprano) (Op. 93a); Gabriela Mossyrsch (harp), Jakob Keiding, Johann Widihofer (horn) (Op. 17)
Arnold Schoenberg Chor/Erwin Ortner
rec. Casino Zögernitz, Vienna, Austria, January-February 1993
WARNER CLASSICS APEX 2564 68240-4 [65:21]
This welcome reissue would have been more valuable had it included the song texts and any notes at all. As it is, the only information given is the titles of the song collections and the individual songs with translations into English and French of the song titles. Thus we have here a budget disc of some superlative performances, excellently recorded, but no information at all on the works themselves. This is a shame because most of these works are not that familiar even to lovers of Brahms’ music. Indeed, if you know Brahms’ sacred choral music (perhaps the German Requiem), most of these pieces will not sound all that familiar. That does not mean that they are lesser works, just a different side of Brahms from the more widely recognizable one.
The songs represented here are all a cappella with the exception of Op. 17. Those are scored for three-part women’s chorus, two horns and harp. For me, they are quite the most attractive of the songs because of the added color that the instruments provide. The other songs are scored variously for four-part mixed chorus (Op. 93a), six-part mixed chorus (Op. 42), or just mixed chorus (Opp. 62 and 104). While all the songs are idiomatically composed, they reminded me at times more of Schubert, Schumann, or Mendelssohn than Brahms. The third song of Op. 17 Der Gärtner (the Gardener), for example, is reminiscent of Schubert in its melody, as is the final song in this set, Gesang aus “Fingal” (Song from “Fingal”) whose theme is very similar to that of Schubert’s Der Tod und das Mädchen (Death and the Maiden). Some of the later works in the Opp. 93a and 104 series, though, do sound more typically Brahmsian. All the works bear repeatedly listening, but I would recommend not listening to the disc all the way through in one sitting. Best to take it in smaller doses.
The performances, as I indicated above, are beyond reproach and they are very warmly, but clearly recorded. The Arnold Schoenberg Chor has become one of Europe’s most famous vocal ensembles and their high reputation in the Germanic repertoire is certainly upheld here.
This, then, is a valuable reissue. If only Warner had supplied some notes and texts. I was not able to find any on their website, either, although the texts for a Chandos recording containing some of these songs are available on-line and you can also try the admirable Lieder and Artsongs webpage at http://www.recmusic.org/lieder/
A fine compilation of Brahms secular songs let down by a lack of texts