Lieder by Schumann, Killmayer & Mahler - CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72518 [MC]: Classical Music Reviews - February 2012 MusicWeb-International

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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Lieder by Schumann, Killmayer & Mahler
See track listing after the review.
Christoph Prégardien (tenor),
Ensemble Kontraste
rec. 14-18 September 2010, Galaxy Studio, Mol, Belgium
Sung texts in German only

Experience Classicsonline

There are twenty four works on this disc. The vast majority of these are established in the standard repertoire but are presented here in a different guise by tenor Christoph Prégardien and the Ensemble Kontraste. The impressive Prégardien has a distinct baritonal quality to his lower register. Across the scores the concept of the Wanderer from German Romantic literature is a constant theme that works superbly well.

Robert Schumann is represented by sixteen scores. Twelve of these are a selection of Lieder that have been arranged by Marcus Reißenberger for voice and small chamber ensemble. Reißenberger made these arrangements for Christian Prégardien specifically for this Wanderer project. Schumann’s Lieder encompass a wide variety of feelings and emotions. Three are taken from his Liederkreis. The remaining four piano pieces are from his set of Waldszenen (Forest Scenes) for piano and delightfully arranged by Reißenberger for small chamber ensemble. I enjoyed the whole Schumann recital in particular Prégardien’s interpretation of the Liederkreis songs; especially the serious and often forceful Waldesgespräch (Conversation in the forest) and the gentle, tender and yearning tones of Mondnacht (Night of the moon) with its attractive mainly piano accompaniment. With a near martial feel in Trost im Gesang (Comfort in song) Prégardien is sturdy displaying the splendid power of his voice. The jaunty optimistic feel to Wanderung (Wandering) with its highly modulating line shows the tenor’s vocal flexibility. Dark and menacing Prégardien provides a real sense of drama in Es leuchtet meine Liebe (My love gleams). With its sense of longing the attractive Mein Wagen rollet langsam (My wagon rolls slowly) shows the attractiveness of Prégardien’s voice and his ability to sing pianissimo. Probably my favourite of all the songs with its memorable melody Der Dichter spricht (The poet speaks) is movingly performed - so tender and dreamy.

Munich-born composer Wilhelm Killmayer is represented by his set of Four Lieder from his second cycle of Hölderlin Lieder from 1986/87 presented in the composer’s own arrangements for small chamber ensemble. With these settings Killmayer freely uses texts by German poet Friedrich Hölderlin. He demonstrates a real affinity with the Romantic poet. Prégardien clearly believes in these highly attractive scores with their spare and finely wrought chamber accompaniments. Throughout the lengthy opening song In lieblicher Bläue (In lovely blue) Killmayer’s orchestration feels superbly crafted. The work opens with a passage for solo flute which is joined by the harmonium. The closing instrumental section is quite superbly played by the Ensemble Kontraste. This is highly engaging writing and the assured vocalist takes the listener on a journey that is not too emotionally draining. I particularly enjoyed the rich-toned Prégardien in the dark and grave final song Griechenland (Greece).

Gustav Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) comprising four Lieder was originally scored for voice and piano then orchestrated by the composer. The cycle could be described as Mahler’s way of expressing his emotional pain and sorrow at being rejected by Johanna Richter a singer at the Kassel Opera and how he found solace in nature. The words are Mahler’s own being strongly influenced by a collection of German folk poetry known as Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth’s Magic Horn). Here the songs are presented in Arnold Schoenberg’s arrangements from 1920 for small chamber orchestra. This is very fine singing from Prégardien who gives a memorable performance of this much loved sequence. With every word feeling meaningful in Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht (When my love becomes a bride) Prégardien displays his rich and smooth timbre. Much as I admire Mahler’s scoring Schoenberg’s light and colourful orchestral accompaniment made a refreshing change. In the challenging Ging heut morgen übers Feld (I walked this morning over the field) Prégardien initially shows some signs of strain but recovers to deliver extremely moving singing over delightful string accompaniment. I checked my favourite version of the Mahler song cycle with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and the Bavarian RSO under Rafael Kubelik recorded in 1968 at Munich on Deutsche Grammophon 449 735-2. I noticed that even this great singer does not find the score effortless. The tempestuous Ich hab' ein glühend Messer (I have a gleaming knife) is given a performance of high drama. Amid the funereal tread of Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz (The two blue eyes of my love) I found Prégardien’s interpretation most affecting.

For some reason it took me a while to get used to the sound of the chamber orchestra. It’s closer recorded than Prégardien. The overall sound is cool and clear, and a slightly warmer bloom would have provided the ideal atmosphere. Some minor volume adjustment was occasionally needed in the louder passages and I felt the recording would have benefited from additional depth. The booklet notes are adequate. Nevertheless further information about the specific works would have been beneficial. Full texts are provided in German but disappointingly there are no English translations.

All those concerned with this Wanderer project are to be heartily congratulated. I will listen to this splendidly performed release again and again.

Michael Cookson

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Lieder arranged for small ensemble by Marcus Maria Reißenberger
Frühlingsfahrt, Op. 45, No. 2 (1840) [2:26]
Eintritt, Op. 82, No. 1 (Waldszenen, Op. 82) instrumental [2:11]
In der Fremde, Op. 39, No. 8 (1840) (from Liederkreis, Op. 39) [1:15]
Waldesgespräch, Op. 39, No. 3 (1840) (from Liederkreis, Op. 39) [2:05]
Mondnacht, Op. 39, No. 5 (1840) (from Liederkreis, Op. 39) [3:37]
Einsame Blumen (Waldszenen, Op. 82) instrumental [2:05]
Trost im Gesang, Op. 142, No. 1 [1:56]
Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend, Op. 35, No. 5 (1840) [2:10]
Wanderung, Op. 35, No. 7 (1840) [1:18]
Herberge (Waldszenen, Op. 82) instrumental [2:33]
Es leuchtet meine Liebe, Op. 127, No. 3 [1:23]
Dein Angesicht, Op. 127, No. 2 (1840) [1:53]
Lehn Deine Wang, Op. 142, No. 2 (1840) [0:44]
Mein Wagen rollet langsam, Op. 142, No. 4 (1840) [2:52]
Abschied (Waldszenen, Op. 82) instrumental [2:32]
Der Dichter spricht (Kinderszenen, Op. 15, No.13) [1:45]

(b. 1927)
Four Lieder from Hölderlin Lieder II (1986/87)
arranged by the composer for small ensemble
In lieblicher Bläue [10:04]
Der Mensch [2:12]
Wie Wolken [1:33]
Griechenland [3:27]

Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer)
arranged for small ensemble by Arnold Schoenberg

Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht (1883-85) [3:35]
Ging heut morgen übers Feld (1883-85) [4:18]
Ich hab' ein glühend Messer (1883-85) [2:53]
Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz (1883-85) [5:10]































































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