Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Robert A. Moore
American Record Guide, May 2012

The major work here is the exquisite ‘Der Hirt auf dem Felsen’, which Rubens sings with crystalline beauty. Her light lyric voice has what John Boyer called “a pleasantly sweet tone that wears well on the ears”. She sings with excellent legato, silvery smoothness, and easy freedom at the top of her range…this is one of the best volumes by the female singers in this set. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, September 2008

Sibylla Rubens…has one of the most exquisite and distinctive soubrette voices of our time…Her readings of these songs are mood oriented…this is a CD that will delight the senses and may fill some gaps in your Schubert song collection.

Rubens’s voice is sort of a cross between Auger and Elisabeth Schumann: more richness in the midrange and depth to the bottom than Schumann possessed, but with a top range that is even more silvery than Auger’s. It is a voice that at first underwhelms you, if you know what I mean. You hear land say, “Oh, what a nice, pretty tone; a shame that she isn’t a great interpreter.” But after a while, you start thinking, “You know, her interpretations really aren’t that bad, and the voice is really quite exquisite.” Considering the fact that Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is truly in a class of his own in all of these songs, Rubens is nevertheless still quite good. The roses don’t really tell the girl how she burns with love, as Janet Baker does, but she has an inner radiance that is almost as good. The “son of the sky” does not really feel the tears of lovers, as in the performance by Heinrich Schlusnus, but its glow is gentle and refreshing. Moreover, Rubens is a master, like Auger, of coloring her voice to change expression subtly. I find Rubens to be, for me, a more interesting singer of Schubert Lied than Elly Ameling, and firmer of tone and less acidic than Edith Mathis.

Without question, pride of place in this recital goes to that celebrated soprano showpiece, The Shepherd on the Rock. Rubens’s singing of this well-worn recital staple is the finest I’ve ever heard. She sings all of the shakes perfectly, her rhythm has just the right swagger, her soft high notes do not sound hollow or precious, she has enough depth to extend the range downward comfortably, and pianist Eisenlohr has just the right balance of legato flow and rhythmic acuity to make the music dance underneath instead of just chug. I’ve heard finer clarinetists on other recordings of this song than Nikolaus Friedrich, but his playing is certainly fine.

The sound quality favors the crystalline tones of Rubens’s voice, which is to say that it also makes the piano and clarinet sound like crystal…Recommended for Rubens’s gorgeous voice and some surprisingly sensitive interpretations.

Drew Minter
Opera News, August 2008

In addition to his customary sensitive accompaniments, Ulrich Eisenlohr has put together a thoughtful program and provides excellent program notes as a map to it, pointing out all the relevant points of interest. The chief monument on this disc, apart from the songs themselves, is the delicious singing of Sibylla Rubens. Rubens sings with extraordinarily beautiful diction and poise throughout the taxing program. Her virtuosity comes from matching her timbre and pronunciation precisely to the poetry, and doing it without in any way distorting Schubert’s music. From the first song, the “Lied der Delphine,” Rubens’s freedom and mastery are clear. Delphine’s wonder and uncertainty at the newness of love are treated to a fast vibrato and brisk strokes. At Schubert’s turn to minor, the voice takes on a subtly darker tone, and a slower vibrato. When she sings of how love weakens her, and of the pallor of her cheeks, the voice whitens. Approaching one of Schubert’s rare, climactic high Cs, Rubens unleashes a swelling torrent of sound in “Freude.”

And so on through every song. “Blumenbrief” sounds full of potential, yet Rubens maintains poise even as most of the song is written in the passaggio on F-sharp! Rubens’s utter freedom on top and her easy passage to the chest voice allow her to make wonderful legato phrases over a broad compass in through-composed songs such as “Herbstnacht” and “Hirt,” but she is easily capable of maintaining the same concentration and interest in the strophic songs. Among the four settings of the Schlegel brothers’ poetry, the beautiful, philosophical “Lob der Thränen,” dedicated to Schubert’s good friend Joseph von Spaun, will long be treasured for its classical melodic outpouring. In fact, this entire recital may be treasured over many hearings.

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, June 2008

A while ago I gave a warm welcome to a Schumann disc on Naxos with Liederalbum für die Jugend (see review), which the excellent baritone Thomas Bauer shared with Sibylla Rubens. Now, when Naxos are nearing the completion of the Schubert cycle, Ms Rubens gets a whole disc to herself and once again shows that she is among the best female Lieder singers in her generation. Just as on the Schumann disc one admires the purity of tone and the musical phrasing. Her bright twittering soprano is agreeable to listen to and she is not only good in the lyrical songs. She also invests the powerful songs with a great deal of drama without for one moment sacrificing the beauty of her voice.

The mastermind behind the whole project, Ulrich Eisenlohr, is, as always, a pliable accompanist and the recording is excellent. I still think it’s a pity that one has to get the texts and translations via the internet.

This is certainly one of the best discs in the series and is worth seeking out, not only for the excellent singing but also for some really attractive unknown songs.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2008

As I have written in previous volumes of the complete Schubert Lieder, Naxos took the unusual path of releasing the songs packaged in their relationship to the poets involved

As I have written in previous volumes of the complete Schubert Lieder, Naxos took the unusual path of releasing the songs packaged in their relationship to the poets involved. That worked well when they were dealing with those who made a major input to the composer’s search for suitable writers. It becomes rather more problematic in the sweeping-up of those who appeared less frequently in his output. So we reach the third volume of the ubiquitous ‘Romantic Poets’, Novalis (the pen name of Friedrich von Hardenburg) being the major contributor. He was a writer of quasi-religious texts who died at the early age of twenty-nine. For a short period Schubert was much drawn to his work, and five of his lieder may have been intended as a cycle. Most of the remaining tracks are given to the brothers Friedrich and  August Wilhelm Schlegel. Schubert was in his early twenties when he fell under the influence of this group of poets, and while his lieder writing was already well developed, it did not contain those telling moments for the piano that we find in his later works. In content the disc speaks much of love both in its happy and anguished aspects, and in the case of Novalis this love is related to religion. Even among the composer’s seldom performed works these are a rarity. There would be many ways to perform these songs, but I would always look to the gravitas of a male voice. Here we have the German soprano, Sibylla Rubens, a singer with a silvery quality that one could imagine singing Sophie in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Her background, however, has been much involved in sacred music on the concert stage. She moves around the music with commendable ease, performing with a voice of youthful innocence that many will find attractive. It is certainly ideal in Der Blumenbrief (The Message of Flowers) and the happy moments in An den Mond in einer Herbstnacht (To the Moon on an Autumn Night). The disc ends with one of Schubert’s last and greatest songs, Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock) which adds the clarinet, Schubert combining the words of Muller and Chezy to achieve the mix of human experience in pleasure and tragedy. This is Rubens’ most satisfying contribution, and gives the outstanding pianist, Ulrich Eisenlohr, an opportunity to display his Schubert credentials. The nicely shaded clarinet solo comes from Nikolaus Friedrich, the South-West German Radio providing the fine sound.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group