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Em Marshall
MusicWeb International, October 2010

The Naxos Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition is an ambitious project to record all of Schubert’s over seven hundred songs, grouped, as per Schubert’s own original publishing plans, according to poets, circles of writers and literary movements.

This, the thirty-second disc in the project, is the first of the set of part-songs, performed by top young German lieder singers of the day. The accompanist, Ulrich Eisenlohr, is also the Artistic Advisor of the project, and chose the singers.

The disc opens with the jolly Die Geselligkeit -“Fellowship”—here given a suitably lively and vivacious performance. It is followed by Nun lasst uns den Leib begraben—“Now let us bury the body”—the performers perfectly conveying the subdued, hushed and sombre atmosphere of the text. The simple but moving Easter chorale, Osterlied—“Jesus Christ, our Saviour” is followed by the buoyant hymn, Gott der Weltschopfer—“God, the Creator of the World”, and then the dramatic Gott im Ungewitter—“God in the Storm”—these two latter setting words by Franconian poets. Schiller’s Hymne an den Unendlichen—“Hymn to God the Infinite” portrays the discrepancy between the omnipotence of the Almighty and man’s insignificance. Schubert provides an aptly dramatic setting of this, here beautifully performed with searing intensity and great insight. The gorgeous and reflective version of Das Abendrot – “Sunset” makes a light and pleasant juxtaposition to the previous song. The ensuing Viel tausend Sterne prangen—“May a thousand stars shine out”—is likely to be Schubert’s first vocal quartet—not that one would think so from its consummate craftsmanship.

Der Hochzeitsbraten—“The Wedding Roast”—the longest work on the disc—is described in the excellent and informative notes as a “a theatrical mini-opera” and was presented in a staged performance the year before Schubert’s death. It is a work full of comedy, innuendo and wit, and the singers here capture the drama of the work well, even if this is not the most convincing and accomplished rendition that I have encountered.

The other substantial piece on the disc is Gebet—“Prayer”. This was composed for Count Esterhazy’s family and a friend to perform when Schubert was staying with them as tutor to the Count’s two daughters. The Countess herself had asked Schubert at a breakfast to set Fouquet’s poem—one of her favourites, and Schubert obliged with a setting that gave each voice (the Count, Countess, eldest daughter and friend) a suitably characteristic part (the youngest daughter, a talented pianist, accompanied). I am not entirely convinced by the cast list in this particular song—the daughter’s role is here taken by Sibylla Rubens, who has a rather heavy, dramatic and mature voice—possibly too much so? The mother’s role, sung by Regina Jakobi, however, is perfect, and the two male voices also work well.

The disc concludes with the celebratory Der Tanz—“The Dance”, performed with a delightfully light touch from pianist Ulrich Eisenlohr, and an appropriately joyful atmosphere from the singers...excellent disc.

Brent Auerbach
American Record Guide, November 2009

Naxos has assembled a cast of bright, youthful, expressive voices and a first-rate pianist to bring the music off and, so far, the results are delightful. They also provide informative notes…This first volume begins with a celebration of good fellowship and ends with a toast to the convivial joys of the dance. In between, Schubert’s incredible gift for song makes music (and some pretty intense music at that) out of poetic testaments to faith, nature, and mortality. ‘Die Hochzeitsbraten’ (The Marriage Roast), a quasi-operatic marital farce that was actually staged in the 1820s, is included to supply 11 minutes of comedic ballast. Some of the songs could lose a stanza or two (or, in a couple of cases, three), but all are worth getting to know.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2009

As Naxos’s monumental cycle of Schubert’s songs draws to a close, we move to his sizeable output of works for a choral group of indeterminate size. They are little-known but highly rewarding. It is strange to recall that outside of church music there was, at that time, no established choirs in the German-speaking southern regions of Europe, so  Schubert was sailing into unchartered territory. That his mind was still relating such pieces as of sacred use comes in his choice of texts, Gott der Weltschoper (God the Creator of the World), Hymne an den Unendlichen (Hymn to the Infinite) forming two of the tracks on the disc. But he did digress, Der Hochzeitsbraten (The Wedding Roast) written as a little operatic scene for soprano, tenor and bass, a score that shortly after his death was presented in a staged version with instruments. It is a lighthearted piece of considerable charm. The disc also contains an example of Schubert’s ability to write very quickly, the extended work for vocal quartet, Gebet, composed to a text by Fouque within the day and performed that evening by the family of Count Esterhazy. Take out those two lengthy works, and the disc is largely given to cameos. The eight singers taking part have featured in previous discs of solo lieder, and make a really fine group. Brand me a heretic, if you must, but this disc—the thirty-second volume—is the one I have enjoyed most of all. The pianist, Ulrich Eisenlohr, enters into the ever changing spirit of the music, and the engineers of Bavarian Radio have captured a realistic balance. Strongly recommended.

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