Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Complete choral music - Volume 1
Christoph Prégardien, Andreas Weller (tenors), Andreas Frese (piano)
Camerata Musica Limburg/Jan Schumacher
rec. 2008-14; Sophie-Hedwig Gymnasium Diez Aula; St Jakobus Kirche Limburg-Lindenholzhausen;
Ev. Kirche St Peter zu Diez GENUIN GEN15349 [72.03]
This disc opens with one of Schubert’s four late works setting Johann Gabriel Seidl, all four of which are included on this disc. Nachtgesang im Walde for male voices and horns is an atmospheric opener, and gets the disc off to a good start. Songs from as early as 1813 are featured, through to those written late in Schubert’s life. The disc covers a variety of poets, from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, through several May songs with words by Ludwig Christoph Heinrich Holty to Friedrich von Schiller. We also hear the profoundly beautiful Grab und Mond (Seidl again).
The singing from the Camerata Musica Limburg is quite robust and vigorous; very appropriate for these songs. Prégardien is – as would be expected – excellent; as is his fellow soloist Andreas Weller, whose part in the final Nachthelle is searingly beautiful. On the other hand, the horn-playing is quite bland and smooth – a bit more character in this and less homogenous performances would be desirable. There are no biographical notes for the horn players so it is unclear as to whether they play together regularly as an ensemble or not. Equally we are not told whether they’re using French or Viennese instruments. The piano comes across as quite tinny — not for the first time on such a disc. It seems to be something of a custom to accompany Schubert choral songs with a tinny piano, as if a nod to the drawing room performances of the time. Mostly this doesn’t detract, but almost adds to the charm and sense of rusticity, yet in Widerspruch the tinny sound becomes just a bit too much; not helped by the fact that the pianist thumps a fair amount.
The other reservation that I have about this recording relates to the recording venues. There are several different venues, and this results in several very different acoustics; the jar between these is quite marked, and one in particular, the Sophie-Hedwig-Gymnasium Diez Aula, is really rather poor. Here, the acoustic is very boomy, and the decay uneven; the bass frequency fades very quickly, leaving the upper frequencies, which again results in a tinny sound. I did find it surprising that a better venue wasn’t used for the majority of the songs, especially with a soloist of Prégardien’s calibre on board.
The booklet notes are good and include words – but one would have appreciated biographies for all the performers, rather than just some of them; and dates for all the songs in the track-listing would also have been helpful.
On the whole, though, not a bad release – some wonderful music, and good singing all-round; only let down occasionally by less than sensitive accompaniment.