Verwandlung - Lieder eines Jahres
(Transformation, Songs of a Year)
Christiane Karg (soprano)
Burkhard Kehring (piano)
rec. Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Cologne, Germany, 21-29 September 2009, DDD
Booklet with artists biographies and an interview with Christiane Karg in German and English, original texts in German included, without translations
Full track listing at end of review
BERLIN CLASSICS 0016762BC [59.05]
Christiane Karg is not, as yet, a household name in the world of opera; at least, not outside Germany. That said, I am sure that it will not be long before Ms Karg has conquered the planet with her beautiful voice, assured coloratura and natural, personal charm! To my shame, This young German soprano was unknown to me until earlier this year. On 14 January 2012, I went to London’s Barbican to review a concert of Josef Haydn’s The Seasons for Seen & Heard International. It was an excellent evening; a concert that I enjoyed very much. I distinctly remember writing that the artist who impressed me the most was Ms Karg, who sang Hannah - the reason being that her singing was simply outstanding.
This recording is a simple but intriguing and intelligent if unfamiliar concept that works brilliantly. The two artists have put together a song cycle of their own, linking songs around a theme: the changing of the seasons. As Ms Karg’s says: “The concept of a personal, unique programme is one I have tried out… / …the audience and the pianist and I were always very happy with the result.” A wide variety of composers is represented. They range from the distant past to the near present and from the rather famous and popular to the not so well known. We have songs by Strauss, like Schlechtes Wetter and Winterweihe; Schubert, Frühlingsglaube and Herbst; Brahms, Berg, Mahler, Schumann, alongside Ligeti’s Der Sommer, Joseph Marx, Hans Eisler and Clara Schumann. Fascinatingly, they blend extremely well, creating a recital of exceptional quality and exquisite beauty.
Christiane Karg’s singing and interpretations are magnificent. She excels in every piece, demonstrating not only her considerable vocal agility but also her exceptional dramatic skills. She is ably and effectively accompanied by Burkhard Kehring. There is an obvious musical rapport between them, a clear dialogue between the piano and the voice, where the voice is centre-stage but without displacing the pianist.
I have a few favourites here. I loved her rendition of Clara Schumann’s Er ist gekommen; poetic and powerful, simultaneously evocative of a winter storm, particularly the way in which she enunciates the first verse of each strophe, which is repeated throughout: Er is gekommen in Sturm und Regen. Then, there are Schubert’s two songs. The music is typically beautiful but Karg’s expressive enunciation, clear, perfect diction and lyrical tone just penetrate the heart, making one want to listen to these tracks over and over again. She is also excellent in Brahms’s Sommerabend, Strauss’s Weisser Jasmin and Ligeti’s Der Sommer.
The intelligence and attractiveness of this recital transcends the music and the singing. The CD’s sleeve and enclosed photographs are tasteful and stylish, revealing great care in selection. These aspects perfectly match Karg’s remarkable voice and attractive, charming presence but also complement the lyricism of the texts and the subtle beauty of most of the music.
The booklet also includes a rather good and interesting interview in which Karg talks about the CD and its concept. There you will also find artist biographies in German and English, and all the original texts.
I loved this CD! It is indeed a “work for all seasons” and an inspiring companion to have by one’s side at any time or situation. I am a fervent admirer of Ms Karg’s artistry.
This very young artist sings with an amazing clarity and a pure, crystal clear tone. Her high notes are powerful yet delicate and never, ever strident or screaming. Ms Karg’s transitions are impeccable; her pianissimo superb and her phrasing elegant, graceful and refined. As if such attributes were not enough, she has a luminous coloratura and is also dramatically very expressive; a quality of great importance in opera but even more so in the song repertoire. She demonstrates remarkable maturity in her repertoire choices, impeccable technique combined with exceptionally clear diction, perfect enunciation, natural charisma and enviable dramatic skills. What are the great operas houses or concert halls of the world waiting for? Hire her now.
Margarida Mota-Bull
Margarida writes more than just reviews: check it online.

Full Track Listing:
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Weißer Jasmin, Winterweihe,Schlechtes Wetter
Clara WIECK SCHUMANN (1819-1896) Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Frühlingsmorgen
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Frühlingsnacht
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Frühlingsglaube, Herbst
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847) Frühlingslied
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903) Er ist's! (Mörike-Lied Nr. 6), Auf eine Christblume 2 (Mörike-Lieder)
Hans PFITZNER (1869-1949) Ist der Himmel darumim Lenz so blau?, Herbstgefühl
Alexander von ZEMLINSKY (1871-1942) Heft 2, No. 1 Frühlingstag, No. 6 Der Wind des Herbstes
György LIGETI (1923-2006) Der Sommer
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Sommerabend, Über die Heide
Joseph MARX (1882-1964) Nocturne
Franz SCHREKER (1878-1934) No. 1 Sommerfäden
Alban BERG (1885-1935) Im Zimmer
Max REGER (1873-1916) Scheiden, Winterahnung
Hanns EISLER (1898-1962) Kalifornischer Herbst (Hollywood Songbook)
Anton WEBERN (1883-1945) Kahl reckt der Baum 
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