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Stephen Francis Vasta
Opera News, October 2017

The cycle is well served by the present artists. The Swiss soprano Rachel Harnisch has a clean, flowing legato line, on which she intones the text with immediacy; she colors her voice to reflect the music’s varied moods, occasionally, as in “Vom Tode Mariä I,” using straight tones for expressive purposes. She strains slightly at the top of the staff, but higher notes spin out more freely: the climactic lines of “Rast auf der Flucht nach Ägypten” are particularly full-throated.

Her pianist, Jan Philip Schulze, seems at first less well-served by the recording: the higher phrases that launch the cycle seem to lack tonal depth, as do those in “Vom Tode Mariä II” later. Elsewhere, he provides Harnisch with firm, weighted support even in the faster-moving passages. The piano textures in “Mariä Heimsuchung” are sparkling and layered; the opening octaves of “Argwohn Josephs” are full-bodied and stark. Schulze also projects the various two-voice passages—like a funhouse-mirror refraction of Bach Inventions—with rich tone, expressive inflections and clarity. © 2017 Opera News Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2017

Of a similar length to Schubert’s major song-cycles, Hindemith’s Das Marienleben started life in 1923, and after many changes it finally arrived at this 1948 version. It used the poetic cycle of words by Rainer Maria Rilke and relates the life of the person who was to give birth to the child Jesus, and of her eventual death, something Christians tend to forget about. Hindemith’s problem had been that the work began in his ‘expressionism’ period, and then passed through the fashionable ‘neo-classicism’ period that Stravinsky introduced into music. That problem surfaces in differing stretches of solo piano he employed to express the scene. Even in his final version Hindemith was torn between two very different styles, and worse was to await the work in an audience perception that a song-cycle was one that possessed ‘songs’, and sadly Hindemith had little melodic material he could offer.  As the years have passed by and we have lived through music composed in the second half of the 20th century, the score now seems less foreboding, though performances in the concert hall are hard to come by. The Swiss-born soprano, Rachel Harnisch, tends towards the view that the words speak for themselves and do not need outgoing characterisation on her part. Jan Philip Schulze ideally deals in his dual role of ‘accompanist’ and ‘soloist’ as Hindemith demands, the recording engineers having achieved a well-judged balance. Welcome as rival recordings are few and far between. © 2017 David’s Review Corner



Lynn René Bayley
The Art Music Lounge, March 2017

Jan Philip Schulze plays with a lovely, somewhat soft quality, coaxing rather than commanding the notes under his fingers.

Harnisch’s voice…has a natural vibrancy, …sometimes letting it ride on the breath and sometimes draining the voice of vibrato for interpretive effect.

…a truly great recording, possibly a new benchmark for this sometimes underrated cycle. © 2017 The Art Music Lounge Read complete review





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