This 6-CD set captures Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Daniel Barenboim in some of their most significant recordings together and features the astonishingly beautiful and highly regarded lieder of Hugo Wolf.
The songs that Kathleen Battle chooses for her recital mostly eschew deep drama for sheer lyricism. If you want an album that explores the lyric impulse in Schubert songs, then, this is certainly for you. Battle sings these pieces with unfailingly beautiful vocal production, plus a winning charm and insouciance that border on the–well, girlish, one wants to say, if that isn't entirely politically incorrect. Her voice is a beautiful instrument, no doubt about it…By M. C. Passarella
This entertaining CD takes its name from a cantata, which forms one part of this recital devoted to the music of Georg Benda (1722-95), one of a distinguished family of Bohemian musicians who settled in Berlin in the 18th century and became part of the German enlightenment. Georg became Kapellmeister at Gotha in 1750 and gained widespread approval for his compositions and for his skill as a violinist, oboist and keyboard player. Mozart admired Benda’s music and carried two of his melodramas with him on his travels. Hyperion have put together a pretty record containing piano pieces (played here expertly on the fortepiano by Timothy Roberts), lieder and the above cantata for soprano or tenor by two of our best ‘chamber singers’ (which does not mean that they do not sing other genres, only that they excel in this kind of intimate sphere). It might be a good idea not to play the whole hour of music at one go but (say) to have half before dinner and half afterwards.
Markus Stenz and the Gürzenich Orchestra Köln have demonstrated a special aptitude for performing large scale post-Romantic works, notably the symphonies of Gustav Mahler, which they recorded for Oehms Classics as a series of hybrid SACDs. They have followed that impressive cycle with what is probably the most Mahlerian work Arnold Schoenberg ever composed, the massive Gurrelieder for solo voices, multiple choruses, and large orchestra. This 2015 Hyperion release is impressive in its crisp details, vibrant tone colors, and startling clarity, all of which are evident in the opening instrumental passages in the Prelude, and which continue through the nearly operatic vocal parts, which have remarkable presence in the face of an orchestra that exceeds Wagnerian proportions. The recording is presented on two CDs that offer extraordinary sound for digital stereo, and the only disappointment is that this wasn't released as a multichannel recording. Listeners who find Schoenberg's modernist music difficult may be more receptive to this cantata, which is his most openly Romantic score and strongly reminiscent of Wagner's music dramas. Highly recommended.
No matter how passionate soprano Barbara Bonney gets, she never loses the unsullied purity of her tone. And in this 1994 disc of Schubert songs, Bonney often has cause to get passionate: her artless Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (D. 965) is transformed by passionate virtuosity, her mournful Mignon Lieder (D. 877) are transcended by passion, and her ecstatic Ganymed (D. 544) is transfigured by passion. But through all of it, Bonney's tone stays pure, the voice of stainless innocence in the face of sorrow, shame and even death. This is almost – but not quite always – a good thing. Bonney can surely sing the songs: her voice is sweet and her technique is graceful…
Although highly productive and respected in his lifetime as a composer of Lieder, Robert Franz (1815–92) has since become a peripheral figure in music history. One reason may be that he avoids dramatic contrasts and instead aims at an emotional ambiguity: ‘My representation of joy is always tinged with melancholy, whilst that of suffering is always accompanied by an exquisite sensation of losing oneself’, he once wrote to Liszt. As a consequence his music appeals to those who are able ‘to admire the nuances of a charcoal drawing without longing for the colours of a painting’, to quote from Georges Starobinski’s liner notes to this recording. As they began to explore the songs of Franz, Starobinski and the baritone Christian Immler were moved by their findings to devise a programme which includes 23 of the composer’s often quite brief songs. Using the poet Heinrich Heine as their guiding star, they present these – all Heine settings but from different opus groups – in the form of two ‘imagined’ song cycles.