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Leipziger Schule
Julia Sophie Wagner (soprano), Eric Schneider (piano)
rec. 25-27 July 2014, Andreaskirche, Berlin Wannsee
No song texts
ES-DUR ES2060 [70:17]

The first German music conservatory was opened in Leipzig on 3 April 1843. Among the founders were Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Robert Schumann. They were also on the first teaching staff and later the same year more musicians joined, among them pianists Ignaz Moscheles and Clara Schumann. The term “Leipzig School” was coined by Hugo Riemann in the 1890s. Edvard Grieg, who was considerably younger didn’t come to Leipzig until 1858, aged 15, but by then both Mendelssohn and Schumann were dead. At least the latter’s spirit still hovered over the school and through studying his songs Grieg found his own style, so there is a clear connexion between the four composers on this disc.

The songs are not always among the best-known of each composer but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Schumann’s Widmung is one of his most beloved compositions, but the Schumanns’ joint Rückert ‘cycle’ is a welcome side-track. The opening Der Himmel hat eine Träne geweint is however one of Robert’s finest and Rose, Meer und Sonne should definitely be included in recitals more often. Of the songs by Clara Liebst du um Schönheit is attractive enough, though it is overshadowed by Mahler’s much later setting. She is at her best in Warum willst Du and’re fragen which is a little gem.

Mendelssohn’s songs are also rather neglected today. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recorded forty songs with Wolfgang Sawallisch in 1967 and they were transferred to CD in harness with a number of Loewe ballads almost ten years ago and issued in EMI’s series “Great Recordings of the Century”. Barbara Bonney with Geoffrey Parsons recorded a CD in the early 1990s and in the early years of the new millennium Margaret Price and Graham Johnson set down a good baker’s dozen for Hyperion. This one I haven’t heard with Ms Price’s creamy tone and usual care for nuance but I am sure they are worth hearing. Ms Bonney and F-D have been valued inclusions in my collection for many years. Mendelssohn’s songs may not be as deep as Schubert’s or Schumann’s, but they are well-crafted, fresh and agreeable – as is his music generally. The songs included here should adorn any song recital with Nachtlied a suitable encore. Readers who buy the present disc and like the Mendelssohn section are advised to explore further in the above mentioned F-D, Bonney and Price issues.

Grieg wrote a surprising lot of songs to German texts, most of them during his student years in Leipzig. His six songs Op. 48 were his only ones in German after leaving Leipzig in 1863. They were published in 1889. Though the influence of Schumann is obvious, he puts his own fingerprints in every phrase and the close connection with the folk music of his native Norway is just as obvious. The best known of the six is no doubt Ein Traum, often sung in Norwegian translation as En drøm, but there are several others worth hearing. Die verschwiegene Nachtigall, a setting of Walther von der Vogelweide, with some medieval references, is quite original. The Goethe setting Zur Rosenzeit will perhaps tempt listeners to explore more of Grieg’s oeuvre. A 7-CD box on BIS with Monica Groop is well worth seeking out.

I liked Julia Sophie Wagner’s interpretations on the present disc very much. It’s well controlled singing, nuanced and with considerable dramatic power when necessary. An excellent sample is Grieg-Goethe’s Zur Rosenzeit – it is impressively well sung. Eric Schneider is a good accompanist and my only regret is the lack of texts and translations. Today most of the poems are probably available online but their absence from this CD's documentation is unwelcome.

To sum up: A valuable and perspective-building issue.

Göran Forsling

Track listing

Robert SCHUMANN (1810 – 1856)
Widmung from Myrthen Op. 25 No. 1 (Friedrich Rückert) [2:14]
Robert and Clara SCHUMANN (1819 – 1896)
From “Liebesfrühling” Op. 37 (Friedrich Rückert)
No. 1 Der Himmel hat eine Träne geweint [2:28]
No. 2 Er ist gekommen (Clara Schumann) [2:25]
No. 3 O ihr Herren [0:58]
No. 4 Liebst du um Schönheit (Clara Schumann) [2:16]
No. 5 Ich hab‘ in mich gezogen [2:10]
No. 6 Liebste, was kann denn uns scheiden? [2:53]
No. 8 Flügel! Flügel! Um zu fliegen [3:44]
No. 9 Rose, Meer und Sonne [5:13]
No. 10 O Sonn‘, o Meer, o Rose [4:35]
No. 11 Warum willst Du and’re fragen (Clara Schumann) [2:44]
Mein schöner Stern! Op. 101 No. 4 (Friedrich Rückert) [2:58]
Suleika Op. 57 No. 3 (Johann Wolfgang Goethe) [3:24]
Oh Jugend, o schöne Rosenzeit! Op. 57 No. 4 (Rheinisches Volkslied) [2:06]
Wanderlied Op. 56 No. 6 (Joseph von Eichendorff) [2:14]
Tröstung Op. 71 No. 1 (Nikolaus Lenau) [3:12]
Frühlingslied Op. 71 No. 2 (August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben) [2:26]
Schilflied Op. 71 No. 4 (Carl Klingemann) [3:25]
Nachtlied Op. 71 No. 6 (Joseph von Eichendorff) [3:12]
Edvard GRIEG (1843 – 1907)
Sechs Lieder Op. 48
Gruss (Heinrich Heine) [1:19]
Dereinst, Gedanke mein (Emanuel Geibel) [3:02]
Lauf der Welt (Ludwig Uhland) [1:42]
Die verschwiegene Nachtigall (Walther von der Vogelweide) [3:36]
Zur Rosenzeit (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) [3:20]
Ein Traum (Friedrich Bodenstedt) [2:28]



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