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Lieder zur Weihnacht in der Dresdner Frauenkirche (Songs for Christmas from the Dresden Frauenkirche )
see end of review for track listing
Peter Schreier (tenor), Hansjorg Albrecht (piano, organ)
rec. live, 16 December 2000, Dresden Frauenkirche, Germany
BERLIN CLASSICS 0300428BC [61:64]

Experience Classicsonline

This live recording on Berlin Classics features Peter Schreier in recital in the unusual setting of the partially rebuilt Dresden Frauenkirche in December 2000. It was good to hear this as in May this year I attended the Dresden Music festival, and my apartment overlooked the church which I visited on several occasions.
The Lutheran Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Dresden was built in the 18th century. In February 1945 during World War II the Frauenkirche was totally destroyed by bombing. After decades lying in ruins work started on rebuilding in October 1994 and continued until its completion and consecration in October 2005. The iconic church has since then become a popular venue for sacred and secular music.
Born in 1935 at Meissen in the German state of Saxony tenor Peter Schreier has maintained a strong connection with the city of Dresden. He entered the Kreuzchor Boys Choir boarding school in Dresden a few months after the Frauenkirche was destroyed. After the war he continued his studies at the Dresden Conservatory. Schreier made his professional operatic debut in Beethoven's Fidelio in 1959 the year of his graduation. Although countless operatic, concert and recital assignments have taken him all over the world Schreier has since 1945 continued to live in Dresden.
During the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche around the year 2000 it was agreed to stage a number of ‘Reconstruction Concerts’ inside the partly completed building. The ten concerts included this evening Advent recital given by Schreier accompanied by Hansjorg Albrecht on piano and electronic organ on 16 December 2000. I’m glad that Berlin Classics and Schreier have agreed to release this recording which I am guessing was intended for radio broadcast. Given that this was made in a partially completed building the marvellous sound quality is testimony to the skills of the recording engineers. The audience can hardly be heard except during the humour of the final song and in their applause at the recital’s conclusion. The booklet essay which provides some interesting context is translated into English but contains no information about the songs and does not give any dates. Full German texts are provided yet annoyingly English translations are omitted. 

The majority of the songs here follow a Christmas/Advent theme. Written in a fairly similar style these tender and expressive songs have a predominantly slow to moderate pace. I find little in the way of drama and they tend to lack variety. I relished hearing Cornelius’s affectionate Christus der Kinderfreund from his Weihnachtslieder.
Another highly attractive score is Reger’s Mariä Wiegenlied - a gently rocking lullaby, melodic and highly memorable too. Wolf’s Spanisches Liederbuch includes both sacred and secular songs. The three songs here favour the sacred. Führ mich, Kind, nach Bethlehem has a typically tender and expressive beauty and is effortlessly sung. Schreier’s selections the Mörike Lieder are admirable, primarily for their innate quality. Their slight differences in style provide welcome variety. The highly melodic Zum neuen Jahr makes considerable demands requiring Schreier to reach into his top range. A Goethe setting, Epiphanias is noticeably rhythmic and brisk, interpreted with a sense of humour that the audience clearly appreciated.
Schreier was in his mid-sixties at the time of this recital and is in splendidly consistent voice. Not in the least overstretched by these settings Schreier sounds fresh and spontaneous, demonstrating a fine feeling for the texts. There is no excessive vibrato and no annoying mannerisms. One could hardly ask for a more polished performance. The highly sympathetic Hansjorg Albrecht is to be found at the piano for all but one track where an organ is used.  

Michael Cookson 

Track listing
Peter CORNELIUS (1824-1874)
Weihnachtslieder, op. 8 Nos. 1-6:
No. 1 Christbaum (Wie schön geschmückt der festliche Raum!) [2:04]
No. 2 Die Hirten (Hirten wachen im Feld) [2:30]
No. 3 Die Könige (Drei Kön'ge wandern aus Morgenland) [2:13]
No. 4 Simeon (Das Knäblein nach acht Tagen) [2:43]
No. 5 Christus der Kinderfreund (Das zarte Knäblein ward ein Mann) [2:24]
No. 6 Christkind (Das einst ein Kind auf Erden war) [1:56]
Ernst PEPPING (1901-1981)
Lieder nach Gedichten von Paul Gerhardt, Nos. 1-12:
No. 4 Fröhlich soll mein Herze springen [4:16]
No. 6 Christwiegenlied [3:36]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Schlichte Weisen, op. 76:
No. 52 Mariä Wiegenlied (Maria sitzt am Rosenhang) [2:04]
Geistliche Lieder, op. 137 Nos. 1-12:
No. 3 Uns ist geboren ein Kindelein [1:11]
No. 10 Christkindleins Wiegenlied (Lasst uns das Kindlein wiegen) [2:13]
Lieder op. 142 Nos. 1-5 (Kinderlieder):
No. 3 Maria am Rosenstrauch (Maria sitzt am Rosenbusch) [1:35]
Schlichte Weisen op. 76, No. 60:
Der König aus dem Morgenland (Ich bin der König vom Morgenland) [1:45]
Joseph HAAS (1879-1960)
Krippenlieder op. 49, Nos. 1-5:
No. 1 Weihnachtslegende (In heiliger Nacht) [3:16]
No. 2 O puer optime! (Süßes Kind in armer Krippe) [2:12]
No. 3 Die beweglichste Musica (O seht das liebe Kind) [1:11]
No. 4 Weihnachtslied (Der ausgestreut der Sterne Gold) [3:19]
No. 5 Marien Kind (Marien Kind im Stalle) [1:43]
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903)
Spanisches Liederbuch:
No. 3 Nun wandre, Maria [2:27]
No. 5 Führ mich, Kind, nach Bethlehem [2:44]
No. 6 Ach, das Knaben Augen [1:47]
Gedichte von Eduard Mörike:
No. 23: Auf ein altes Bild (In grüner Landschaft Sommerflor) [2:17]
No. 25: Schlafendes Jesuskind (Sohn der Jungfrau, Himmelskind!) [2:38]
No. 27: Zum neuen Jahr (Wie heimlich Weise) [2:06]
Epiphanias (Die heiligen drei König mit ihrem Stern) [4:07]

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