Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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OTHMAR SCHOECK (1886-1957) Der Postillon Op. 18 for male chorus, tenor and orchestra Fifteen Lieder Ernst Haefliger (tenor), Wettinger Kammerchor und Seminarkor Wettingen, Wettinger Kammerorchester cond Karl Grenacher Haefliger and Karl Grenacher (piano) in the eighteen songs rec 1967 JECKLIN JD 504-2 [43.10]


Der Postillon (Lenau), or more accurately a few moments from Der Postillon, was my initiation into Schoeck's music. During the early 1980s BBC Radio Three's 'Music Magazine' included a ten minute illustrated profile of Schoeck. The presenter/writer was Sibelius expert, Robert Layton. He played the section of Der Postillon where Haefliger is at the top of his range and the orchestral ensemble's French horn ecstatically echoes the voice. This is a delight not to be missed. The moment parallels the sublime sweet harmony episode in Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music. The whole thing plays for five seconds short of ten minutes.

Mit einem gemalten Band (Goethe) is simple, Mozartian and utterly affecting. Marienlied (Novalis) is impressive and enticingly concentrated though not driving away memories of Joseph Marx's even more memorable setting. Peregrina II (Morike) is dark, straining at the gloomier lower boundaries of Haefliger's noble range.

The choral settings are An einem heitern Morgen (Uhland); Sehnsucht (Eichendorff); Ein Voglein singt im Walde (Ritter); Es ist bestimmt in Gottes Rath (Feuchtersleben) and Agnes (Morike). Agnes is notable for really quiet singing. The style is rather Brahmsian. 's Seeli (Lienert) is for male chorus and is a dialect setting for huskily honeyed voices and Zimmerspruch (Uhland) is in the character of a round.

Now for the solo songs in which Haefliger is partnered by Karl Grenacher. Im kreuzgang von St. Stefano (Hesse) is a Hardyesque song recalling Gerald Finzi's settings of that poet. Walvogelein (Leuthold) has some striking bird call effects predictably (but well) echoed by the piano - really unleashing the song in ecstasy in last of the four verses. Haefliger's legendary purity, enunciation and line is well used here. I wish Ian Partridge had recorded these pieces as he has a similarly pure line in enunciation and tone production.

The analogue sound is good and solid. The hiss suppression is not as subtly applied as it might have been but rarely distracts.

Good notes in English and German. Song texts in German only. This disc was released on CD in 1988 the year before Haefliger's seventieth birthday. He was 48 when he made these tapes.

This disc (which these days is rather short on playing time) is de rigueur for Haefliger-fanciers and the growing band of Schoeck hunters. Recommended especially for Der Postillon - sheer serene splendour! We can also hope that the world's choirs will listen to this disc and discover some new material for choral competition and concert.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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