Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Sein wir wieder gut
from Ariadne auf Naxos (1912/16) [3:24]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
O sleep, why dost you leave me?
from Semele (1743) [3:11]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Ah! non credea mirarti
from La Sonnambula (1831) [4:11]
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)
from Raymond or Le secret de la reine (1851) [8:02]; Je suis Titania from Mignon (1866) [5:02]
Morgen mittag um elf! from Capriccio (1940/41) [14:39]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Arlésienne suite No. 1 -
Adagietto (1872) [2:25]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
Canzone del salice
(Willow Song) from Otello (1887) [10:17]
Ave Maria from Otello [4:25]
Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)
No. 3 Farben: Sommermorgen an einem from Five orchestral pieces, Op. 16 (1909) [3:08]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
Ah! Dieu nous éblouit par excès de Vérité
- from St. François d’Assise (1975/83) [7:46]
Christine Schäfer (soprano)
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Julien Salemkour
rec. 21-24 March 2011, Teldex Studios, Berlin, Germany
Texts included with English translations
SONY CLASSICS 88697913992 [66:37]
This is Christine Schäfer’s debut release for Sony Classical. I have admired this German soprano’s voice since her 1997 Berlin recording of Mozart concert arias and Richard Strauss orchestral songs with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Claudio Abbado (Deutsche Grammophon 457 5822).
Throughout the booklet there are numerous pictures of Schäfer in artistic poses together with what looks like a cheese plant in four of the frames. To my untrained eye on the front cover Schäfer looks as if she has the hairstyle of a wealthy Parisian middle class women in the time of Marie Antoinette. All very arty but no more than I would expect from this superb and highly individual performer. There are eleven tracks and Schäfer sings on eight of them. I had the pleasure of hearing the DSO Berlin in concert last September at the Musikfest Berlin 2011 under Leo Hussain; the featured work was the Saint-Säens Symphony No. 3 C minorOrgan’. As well as accompanying Schäfer this orchestra plays a fascinating if curious mix of three orchestral works. I was hearing the Overture from Amboise Thomas’s opera Raymond or Le secret de la reine for the first time. I loved this appealingly melodic score. The Adagietto from Bizet’s Arlésienne suite No. 1 is simply ravishing and their superb performance of Schoenberg’s Farben: Sommermorgen an einem See (Colours: Summer Morning by a Lake) which is No. 3 from the Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16 has a stunning, cool beauty.
Christine Schäfer has selected her scores well in repertoire that ranges from the baroque of Handel to the sumptuous late-Romantic of Richard Strauss. The first score on the disc, the dramatic Sein wir wieder gut from Ariadne auf Naxos really tests the extremes and power of Schäfer’s range. Not surprisingly in this difficult aria the results felt a touch forced and not totally comfortable in the lower notes. Schäfer is eminently suited to Handel’s O sleep, why dost you leave me? This is sung with fine English diction and evident tenderness. I delighted in Schäfer’s creamy timbre in Bellini’s charming Ah! non credea mirarti from La Sonnambula. Her impressive coloratura is presented splendidly in Ambroise Thomas’s Je suis Titania from that sorely neglected opera Mignon. Most impressive of all is her Desdemona in Verdi’s dramatically presented Willow Song. Here she is in radiant form and explodes up to the highest notes to wonderful effect.
Recorded in the Teldex Studios, Berlin the sound quality is crystal clear and well balanced. I enjoyed this release from first note to last. It is good to see full texts included together with English translations.
Schäfer is in magnificent form in this fascinating Sony Classics release.

Michael Cookson
Schäfer is in magnificent form … fascinating.