One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here
 

 

International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Founding Editor: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider

/


Leticia Gómez-Tagle (piano)


Scherber Symphony 2
SPECIAL OFFER £10


Respighi Piano Music
SPECIAL OFFER £10


CPE Bach Cantatas
a revelation


Biber: Sacred Choral Works
Don't miss it


Jonathan Dove


Tommie Haglund
Unique and Powerful music


Organ Fireworks


Highly Entertaining


A triumphant performance


Bruckner Symphony 4
One of the finest I have heard


A most joy-inducing recording


A winning partnership


A Lohengrin to treasure.

 


Support us financially by purchasing this from
 

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Die Schöne Magelone
Christian Gerhaher (baritone)
Gerold Huber (piano)
rec. November 2014, Studio 2, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich
SONY CLASSICAL 88985413122 [53:56]

Let’s get the complaints out of the way first. It is unforgiveable for Sony to release a major work of the German song repertoire, with one of their key classical artists, without the full texts and translations in the booklet notes. All you get is the English translation (no German), laid out in a very tiresome manner that is not at all easy on the eye and which, I presume, was done only to save space and, therefore, cost. Yes, you can probably find the texts online if you look hard enough but, when you’re paying mid to full price for the CD, why should you have to? Furthermore, it’s short-changing the customer, in this day and age, to put out a CD at less than one hour’s running time, even if it is one major work. Surely a filler could also have been chosen as a coupling?

That grumble over, I can report that the performance itself is excellent, and one of the finest to have appeared in recent years. I and others have sung the praises of Christian Gerhaher elsewhere in these pages, and this probably isn’t the place to repeat myself. I will just reiterate that he is one of the finest vocal storytellers at work today, and Brahms’ cycle gives him plenty of opportunities to do what he does best. You get that right from the opening song, in fact, with a heroic tone to describe Count Peter’s chivalric wanderings, that Gerhaher then softens markedly at the phrase “Dann wählt er beschieden” as he changes the focus to the maiden that he woos. Insights like this come all through the cycle, not least in Wie schnell verschwindet so Licht als Glanz, the only song for Magelone herself, which Gerhaher gives a much softer, more feminine tone.

He unleashes his finest, vollromantisch yearning for Sind es Schmerzen in a manner that almost resembles Wagner’s Tristan, while in Wie soll ich die Freude he marries exterior bliss with the deepest, inward reflectiveness. That passion then bleeds into the outwardly simpler Liebe kam aus fernen Landen, which sees the voice transform from the passion of the first verse to the simplicity of the last, giving us the same music but a deeply changed experience. The blissful lullaby of Ruhe, Süßliebchen is full of tenderness and gentle longing, and he doesn’t overdo the drama of Verzweiflung, instead turning it into a mirror of the character’s internal suffering.

In all of this he is matched by pianism of great insight from Gerold Huber. I loved the galloping effect in Keinen hat es noch gereut, and the strumming of Sind es Schmerzen that resembles a romantic harp. The piano is resplendent with the bliss of nature in So willst du des Armen and mirrors the voice in running through a whole range of effects in Wir müssen uns trennen, from the turbulence of the ocean to the clanking of armour in battle. He feels totally at one with the voice in Ruhe, Süßliebchen, and both find their pinnacle in the consummation of the final song, whose hymn-like opening seems to bless the lovers’ reunion, and the final minutes feel like closing a loop not just on the song but on the whole cycle.

Gerhaher even challenges the supremacy of his teacher, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, in this cycle, so great are his insights. Of course, not even he can solve the cycle’s inherent narrative problems: Brahms sets a series of poems that were extracted from a much longer novella, which has the effect of isolating various moments from their overarching story, making it impossible to reconstruct the story from those poems alone; something that’s impossible to remedy without external help. Roderick Williams tries to remedy this on his (just released) recording for Champs Hill, by interpolating the prose narrative between the songs. You’ll have to hear it for yourself to see if you find Williams’ once-upon-a-time style helpful rather than distracting: at least he gives you a second disc without the narrative, too.

So, despite the slap on the wrists for the packaging, this is a very fine release that deserves to win more friends for the work as well as more admiration for the artists.

Simon Thompson

 

 




Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and get a free CD

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical

 

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Arcodiva
Atoll 10% off
CDAccord
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Hortus
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sheva £2 off
Sheva Contemporary
Sterling 10% off
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger