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Première Portraits
Thomas Ebenstein (tenor)
Charles Spencer (piano)
rec. 4tune Studios, Vienna, 2017
CAPRICCIO C3007 [69:16]

The whole concept behind the Capriccio Première Portraits is to introduce new and promising vocalists to the world, and if they are as good as this one, they are certainly mining a goldmine of talent. Thomas Ebenstein was born in 1979 and has a rich and pleasing tenor voice that is quite deep at times.

His recital is quite a challenging one – there is no playing safe here – as it opens with the eight Brettl-Lieder, or Cabaret Songs, of Arnold Schoenberg. The only other version of these songs I have is on the Capriccio edition of the composer’s complete Songs (C 7120), which on that occasion are sung by the soprano Claudia Barinsky, and whilst it is good to have a deeper and darker perspective, her rendition does has slightly more humour, I do like Ebenstein’s faltering, almost shriek-spiel style, especially in the opening Galatea, but I don’t understand why he sings the eight songs out of order.

Alexander von Zemlinsky’s two Brettl songs, whilst not unknown to me, are hardly regular visitors to my CD player. Ebenstein gives these two miniature songs (the longest is only 1 minute 48) a full throttle performance, highly engaging and well sung.

Probably the best known of the songs on this disc are the Zwölf Gesänge Nach Alfred Kerr by Richard Strauss, I certainly have more recordings of these than anything else on this disc. Whilst, in my opinion, not the composer’s best songs, they are sung here with great panache, with Ebenstein’s dark, almost high-baritone voice giving some of them new emphasis, just listen to his rendition of the opening ‘Es war einmal ein Bock’ for instance and you will be bowelled over.

The final work on the disc is Korngold’s Songs of the Clown, his settings of Shakespeare, and whilst I know other versions, I only have that by Anne Sofie von Otter (459 631-2) on disc. Ebenstein’s voice certainly adds more heft to the songs, especially in ‘Come Away, Death’, with the overall affect being quite pleasing.

Thomas Ebenstein proves himself a tenor to follow; he could have easily chosen safer repertoire for his first disc, but here he has chosen songs that would challenge more established singers and passes well the tests that they set.. He is accompanied by Charles Spencer, who is present on most of these series of Première Portraits, and proves once again to be a wonderful accompanist. Where this disc is let down is in the booklet, a biography of the performers is all you get, no details of composers or music to be found. But as the disc is about the singer we can forgive that.

Stuart Sillitoe

Previous review: Göran Forsling

Arnold SCHÖNBERG (1874 – 1951)
Brettl-Lieder (1901)
1. Galathea (Wedekind) [2:58]
2. Gigerlette (Bierbaum) [2:08]
3. Der genügsame Liebhaber (Salus) [2:42]
4. Einfältiges Lied (Salus) [2:24]
5. Mahnung (Hochstetter) [3:36]
6. Jedem das seine (Colly) [4:57]
7. Arie aus dem Spiegel von Arcadien (Schikaneder) [3:18]
Alexander von ZEMLINSKY (1871 – 1942)
Zwei Brettl-Lieder (1901)
8. In der Sonnengasse (Holz) [1:48]
9. Herr Bombardil (Schröder) [1:42]
Richard STRAUSS (1864 – 1949)
Krämerspiegel, Op. 66, Zwölf Gesänge nach Alfred Kerr (1921)
10. Es war einmal ein Bock [2:57]
11. Einst kam der Bock als Bote [3:24]
12. Es liebte einst ein Hose [2:08]
13. Drei Masken sah ich am Himmel stehn [2:44]
14. Hast Du ein Tongedicht vollbracht [1:08]
15. O lieber Künstler sei ermahnt [3:08]
16. Unser Feind [1:27]
17. Von Händlern wird die Kunst bedraht [5:24]
18. Es war mal eine Wanze [3:27]
19. Die Künstler sind die Schöpfer [2:08]
20. Die Händler und die Macher [1:19]
21. O Schöpferschwarm, o Händlerkreis [4:09]
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897 – 1957)
Songs of the Clown, Op. 27. Nach William Shakespeare (1937)
22. Come Away, Death [2:39]
23. O Mistress Mine [2:16]
24. Adieu, Good Man Devil [0:53]
25. Hey, Robin [0:59]
26. For the Rain, It Raineth Every Day [3:34]



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