Aribert REIMANN (b. 1936)
Song Cycles after Schubert, Schumann, Brahms & Mendelssohn

Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Mignon (arr. Reimann) [13:14]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
5 Ophelia-Lieder (arr. Reimann) [4:32]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
6 Gesänge, Op. 107 (arr. Reimann) [9:14]
Oder soll es Tod bedeuten? (arr. Reimann) [23:39]
Juliane Banse (soprano)
Cherubini Quartet (Christoph Poppen, Ulf Wallin (violins); Hariolf Schlichtig (viola); Christoph Richter (cello))
rec. Schloss Elmau, Oberbayern 23-25 August 1997
TUDOR 7063 [51:21]

Interesting to review this disc so soon after Wolfgang Holzmair's performance of Reimann's Nachtstück (on poems by Eichendorff) at the Wigmore Hall (see concert review). Interesting, also, to re-experience the Nachtstück in the light of Holzmair's Philips recording (464 991-2). His recording is more involving than at the Wigmore - where it was actually the highlight of a disappointing evening. It is worth noting that the present disc was touched on by PGW some time ago.

The piece here entitled Mignon (after Goethe) carries with it the description “compiled and transcribed for soprano and string quartet”. Reimann's typically wide-ranging imagination takes some of the lesser-known settings by Schubert of this text along with the more familiar - and includes the five-part male choir version D656 of 1819. The D310 vies with fragments from another early rescension. The effect is far from the patchwork that the foregoing description might imply. Juliane Banse's faultless soprano delivers all the radiance this music demands, and Reimann's transcription, and his play with his inherited materials, is masterly. Banse's slurs, too, are astonishingly clean, almost in the early music-inspired manner. The Cherubini Quartet matches her radiance, thus doing this music full justice. It is as if Reimann has set out to illuminate this music from within and, as such, he almost transcends the limits implied by the descriptor, “transcriber”.

The Brahms Ophelia-Lieder, lasting in total a mere four minutes, are given subdued treatment. The openness of “Auf morgen ist Sankt Valentins Tag” is a shot of light in Reimann's hands; he subsequently highlights the darkness of the ensuing “Sie treugen Ihn auf der Bahre bloss”, whilst the fragile longing of the final “Und kommt er nicht mehr zurück?” is expertly caught.

The Op. 107 songs are magnificent examples of late Schumann - the first makes reference to Ophelia, thus linking to the Brahms just heard. Here Reimann is more interventionist, especially in the string effects of the second song, “Der Fensterscheibe”. Interesting also to hear the high strings against Banse in “Der Gärtner”, although “Im Wald” alone sounds falsely tampered with and makes one wish for the voice/piano original.

The Mendelssohn takes the last line of the song “In dem Mondschein um Walde” as its title. Reimann wrote six Intermezzi, linking the songs which also act on his own reflections about the songs themselves. The juxtaposition of styles is both startling and rewarding. Mendelssohn and Reimann's Webern-influenced mode of expression are poles apart in some ways. Reimann takes ten songs, most of which are little known - the greatest exception being “Auf Flügeln des Gesanges”, here with an almost Schoenbergian use of strings. The care with which Banse phrases throughout is remarkable, as is her ability to attune to both the worlds of Mendelssohn and of Reimann.

The recording is full and forthright - perhaps a touch more intimacy would have been appropriate. Yet this remains a vitally important issue, and one which adds much to our appreciation of the magnificent songs while in the process encouraging us to re-examine them. The disc requires much input on the part of the listener - a refreshing change in the current climate of convenience food, Classic-FM samplers.

Colin Clarke

A vitally important issue, and one which adds much to our appreciation of the magnificent songs while in the process encouraging us to re-examine them.