Louis SPOHR(1784 - 1859)
Six German Songs op. 37, 41 & 72 Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART(1756-1791) Das Veilchen (KV 476) [2:31] Komm, liebe Zither (KV 351) [1:44] Vergiß mein nicht (KV Anh 246) [1:37] Die Zufriedenheit (KV 349) [2:14] Ridente la calma (KV 152) [3:26] Abendempfindung (KV 523) [4:53]
Antonia Elisabeth Brown (soprano), Adriano Sebastiani (guitar)
rec. September 2009, Rainbow Recording Studio, Piano del Voglio,
Texts included, no translations
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94274 [60:23]
Although the guitar probably dates from the Middle Ages it started
to play a considerable role in Western music in the 16th century.
This coincides with the appearance of the five-string guitar
in Spain. In the 17th century it was introduced in Italy and
gained a huge following. This seems to have diminished in the
latter decades of that century and in the next. It was towards
the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries that the six-string
guitar came into existence.This would develop into the guitar
as it is played today in classical music. In the 19th century
it became quite popular: great quantities of music for the guitar,
both solo and in ensemble, were written. Among the composers
whose names are connected to the guitar are Fernando Sor and
Mauro Giuliani. The present disc focuses on an interesting aspect
of 19th-century music: songs for voice and guitar.
Sor was one of the composers who wrote songs for voice and guitar,
but the songs by Spohr recorded here were originally written
for voice and piano. Since not everyone could afford a piano
the guitar developed into its cheaper alternative. Publishers
took profit by printing songs with alternative accompaniments
for guitar. That was also the case with the three collections
of songs by Louis Spohr. The songs op. 37 and op. 41 date from
1815 and were first printed by Peters in Leipzig in 1816 and
1817 respectively. In those years versions with guitar accompaniment
were also printed. These had already been announced on the frontispieces
of the original editions. The songs op. 72 date from 1826 and
were published the next year. Again a version with guitar was
announced, which was printed in 1827.
It is not known who is responsible for the guitar versions.
There are reasons to believe, though, that Spohr in any case
approved of them. Moreover, he seems to have had a more than
average knowledge of the guitar. That can be concluded from
his own indications in regard to the performance of the guitar
part in an aria from his opera Zemire und Azor. He also
counted various guitarists among his friends. One of them was
Albert Methfessel, himself a composer of many songs with guitar
accompaniment. The songs op. 41 were dedicated to him.
A disc with songs by Spohr is welcome. He composed a considerable
number, but they are not exactly part of the standard repertoire
of today's singers of German Lieder. I have in fact heard
some of his songs. I find it not easy to assess them on the
basis of this disc because the performances are largely disappointing.
The most annoying aspect is the incessant and pretty wide vibrato
of Antonia Elisabeth Brown. It is not only that she uses it
on too many notes: she uses it on every note, short or
long, forte or piano. This becomes very tiresome
after a while. Her diction is alright, although there are some
lapses. The same goes for her German pronunciation: there are
some errors which should have been corrected. A language coach
might have helped.
It goees without saying that the balance between the voice and
the guitar is quite different from that between the voice and
the piano. In this recording there are problems in this department.
In some songs the guitar is too much in the background. That
isn't just a matter of recording technique, but also of interpretation.
Ms Brown doesn't fully succeed in adapting her voice to the
guitar. Her biography in the booklet tells us nothing about
her credentials in this repertoire. She is mainly active as
an opera singer and that is reflected in her performances here.
Moreover, her singing is too one-dimensional. she could have
done more with the texts and treated them with greater differentiation.
I have no other recordings of songs by Spohr so I can't compare
these performances with others. The addition of some songs by
Mozart gives some indication of Ms Brown’s approach. I
have heard far more subtle interpretations of Das Veilchen.
The booklet includes the texts of the songs but omits translations.
That is very inconvenient as these are much harder to find on
the internet than, for instance, translations of Schubert songs.
The lyrics also contain various printing errors, and they are
printed in such a way that the rhyming words are sometimes in
the middle of a line.
The booklet omits to give precise information about the guitar.
When I asked the webmaster for this disc I was motivated by
my assumption that Adriano Sebastiani played a 19th-century
instrument. I was misled by the reference to 'classical guitar'
on the tray. Is that because someone wanted to make sure that
nobody would think that an electric guitar was used? Anyway,
it seems that no historical instrument is involved, despite
the mentioning of Sebastiani playing a "romantic guitar" in
the booklet. I must confess, though, that I don't know enough
about the guitar to be able to establish what kind of instrument
Even so, it doesn't change my assessment. I was happy to see
a recording of Spohr songs, but I'm afraid we have to wait if
we want to find out the true quality of these pieces.
Johan van Veen
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