Sunday, April 30, 2017

Franz Schubert - Lieder with Orchestra (Anne Sofie von Otter; Thomas Quasthoff; Claudio Abbado)


Composer: Franz Schubert
  1. Romance from Rosamunde, D. 797 No. 3b: Der Vollmond strahlt
  2. Die Forelle, D. 550 (Op. 32) (orch. Benjamin Britten)
  3. "Jäger, ruhe von der Jagd!" Ellens Gesang II, D. 838 (orch. Johannes Brahms)
  4. Gretchen am Spinnrade, D. 118 (orch. Max Reger)
  5. An Sylvia, D. 891 (Op. 106/4)
  6. Im Abendrot, D. 799 (orch. Max Reger)
  7. Nacht und Träume, D. 827 (orch. Max Reger)
  8. Gruppe aus dem Tartarus, D. 583 (Op. 24/1) (orch. Max Reger)
  9. Erlkönig, D. 328 (Op. 1) (orch. Hector Berlioz)
  10. Die junge Nonne, D. 828 (orch. Franz Liszt)
  11. Die schöne Müllerin, D. 795: Tränenregen (orch. Anton Webern)
  12. Winterreise, D. 911: Der Wegweiser (orch. Anton Webern)
  13. Du bist die Ruh', D. 776 (Op. 59/3) (orch. Anton Webern)
  14. Schwanengesang, D. 957: Ihr Bild  (orch. Anton Webern)
  15. Prometheus, D. 674 (orch. Max Reger)
  16. Memnon, D. 541 (orch. Johannes Brahms)
  17. An Schwager Kronos, D. 369 (orch. Johannes Brahms)
  18. An die Musik, D. 547 (Op. 88/4) (orch. Max Reger)
  19. Erlkönig, D. 328 (Op. 1) (orch. Max Reger)
  20. Geheimes, D. 719 (Goethe) (orch. Johannes Brahms)
  21. Schwanengesang, D. 957: Ständchen (orch. Jacques Offenbach as "La Sérénade de Schubert")

Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano (1-10, 20)
Thomas Quasthoff, bass-baritone (11-19, 21)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Date: 2003
Label: Deutsche Grammophon



Schubert himself orchestrated only one of these songs, the Romance from Rosamunde. The other arrangers are Berlioz, Brahms, Britten, Liszt, Offenbach, Reger and Webern: hardly an everyday list of ordinary hacks. Perhaps Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian and a few others working in colour on drawings by Leonardo might provide a suggestion of something comparable. We would hope, in such a case, for almost contradictory features – respect for the original and evidence of something personal in the treatment. And certainly that is what we have here. 

In Erlkönig Berlioz relives that haunted ride of father and son to the inn with his imagination aglow, almost writing the opening of Die Walküre in the process. Brahms so takes the dawn-devoted Memnon to his heart that Schubert’s harmonies become an exquisite personal possession, the song set within an orchestral framework of the utmost loveliness. Britten in Die Forelle keeps his eye on the fish, its lithe movements illuminated by the clarinet, lost to aural view in the muddy waters stirred up by the thievish angler. Reger is the most frequent contributor and perhaps the least valuable; by his late-19th-century lights he generally does a good job, something better perhaps in Nacht und Träume, something (I would say) worse in Gretchen am Spinnrade. Webern, whose four arrangements date from 1903, is fascinating. The desolate heart of ‘Der Wegweiser’ is uncannily open to him; the deceptive reassurances of the lulling brook in ‘Tränenregen’, too. 

It is a programme of a kind not often attempted on records – Hermann Prey did something similar in a disc for RCA around 25 years ago (11/77 – nla). It makes good sense to use two singers: Ellen, Gretchen and the young nun on the one hand, Prometheus and Memnon on the other, require this luxury. To have such artists as von Otter and Quasthoff with a conductor of Abbado’s standing is a privilege indeed, particularly to be valued because it confers on these arrangements a recognition and status which on the whole are richly deserved. Von Otter sings with (to my mind) rather too much of her wide-eyed Children’s Hour style, but she is never even momentarily inert or commonplace, and sometimes, as in Erlkönig and Gruppe aus dem Tartarus, with strikingly imaginative intensity. Quasthoff, too, is impressive in the ‘big’ songs, especially Prometheus and An Schwager Kronos. The orchestra, under Abbado, play with distinction – which is just as well, for in this of all song-recitals what they play is the prime centre of interest.

-- John Steane, Gramophone [7/2003]

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Franz Schubert (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828) was an Austrian composer who was extremely prolific during his short lifetime. His output consists of over six hundred secular vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and piano music. Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of the late Classical era and early Romantic era and is one of the most frequently performed composers of the early nineteenth century. His music is characterized by pleasing tunes while still has "a great wealth of technical finesse".


Anne Sofie von Otter (born 9 May 1955 in Stockholm) is a Swedish mezzo-soprano. She made her professional operatic début in 1983. Her repertoire encompasses lieder, operas, oratorios and also rock and pop songs. She has made numerous recordings and received many rewards. Her recording of Grieg songs won the 1993 Gramophone Record of the Year, the first time in the award's history that it had gone to a song recording. She is a regular recital and recording partner with Swedish pianist Bengt Forsberg.


Thomas Quasthoff (born November 9, 1959 in Hildesheim, West Germany) is a German bass-baritone. Quasthoff has a range of musical interest from the Baroque cantatas of Bach, to Romantic lieder, and solo jazz improvisations. Born with severe birth defects, Quasthoff is 1.34 m tall, and has phocomelia. He has won several awards, including 2 Grammies for his recordings with Anne Sofie von Otter and Claudio Abbado. In January 2012, Quasthoff announced his retirement from public performance.


Claudio Abbado (26 June 1933 – 20 January 2014) was an Italian conductor. One of the most celebrated and respected conductors of the 20th century, he served as music director of the La Scala opera house in Milan, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Vienna State Opera, and principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra. Abbado performed a wide range of Romantic works and recorded extensively for a variety of labels.


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