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Jens F. Laurson
Ionarts, January 2015

Best Recordings of 2014 – Reissue (#5)

Schoenberg’s beauty is often only the source of labor, effort, and willingness on the listener’s part—but it sure can yield. Aside, only about half of Schoenberg is scary.

Among the exceptions: the delicate-brilliant baritone song cycle The Book of Hanging Gardens, which sits right at the point where the pantonal harmony (or re-definition thereof) starts…and which it does terrifically thanks to Konrad Jarnot at his best. This is fragile music, romantic yes, but only in a faint sense; and somewhat beyond the average listener’s easily accessible listening-comfort-zone. But gorgeously fragile! The Cabaret Songs meanwhile come with hints of circus, banana-skirts, and Mime (from Wagner’s Siegfried). The pleasure taken from these is more a matter of taste than harmonic ideology, but it’s good to know about all the kinds of things Schoenberg was inclined to write, before one embraces him more fully. A most welcome re-release for the inclined musical explorer. © 2015 Ionarts

Rob Haskins
American Record Guide, January 2013

This set collects all the songs with piano and includes many first recordings. Aside from its obvious usefulness as a reference…the performances are first rate: four singers divide the works between them, all accompanied expertly and musically by pianist Liska. Capriccio’s sound is excellent. A must have. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Robert Tomas
The WholeNote, October 2012

Throughout his life, Schoenberg struggled for acceptance of his new ideas about music…This collection reveals a composer who at times was as poignant and romantic as Schubert, as dramatic as Brahms and as tuned to human emotions as Mahler. What helps are two artistic choices: firstly, all of the songs are presented with piano-only accompaniment, even the Gurrelieder, better known in their later orchestral renditions. The second choice is equally fortuitous: one great pianist, Urs Liska, and six diverse, but equally talented singers. This edition is a must-have in any music lover’s library. © 2012 The WholeNote Read complete review

Mark Sealey
Classical Net, October 2012

…here is a collection with half a dozen accomplished singers and four instrumentalists of all the songs Schoenberg wrote. It gives a sense of this neglected area of the composer’s output.

The quality of the singing is generally high. The hundred or so songs in the set from Capriccio are certainly all sung with sensitivity, gentleness and a great deal of sympathy towards their world and what they meant to Schoenberg. The singers’ techniques are for the most part very pleasing. Melanie Diener’s soprano…has a fuller vocal production and seems closer to the songs and thus abler to convey their full meaning. Her articulation and expression in the “Acht Lieder”, Op. 6…for instance, are compelling… full of pathos, projection and warmth.

Similarly, baritone Konrad Jarnot sings most convincingly…he delights in taking the songs at face value, in assuming almost nothing about what we should or should not make of this corner of Schoenberg’s œuvre. Special mention must be made of Urs Liska’s clean, persuasive and idiomatic piano accompaniment across all four CDs…particularly admirable is his breadth of confident and perceptive playing, which both supports the singers and draws our interest as the music progresses.

Jens Peters Jakobsen’s texts…which became those of the Gurrelieder, are of particular interest. They are sung particularly well by Diener and tenor Markus Schäfer…These are the original piano versions with two voices. One can already sense the lush and searing sound world into which Schoenberg was later to reach. Here though both singers perform the songs for what they are; not what they would become. The interpretation of singers and pianist is warm, compelling and has an atmosphere that stays with you long after the final strident…

This set has a lot going for it, then. Not only is it as complete as anything else available. It’s been carefully conceived, imaginatively executed and well presented. There are songs here that are unavailable elsewhere.

The acoustic on these CDs is close and makes them accessible without being pressing. The booklet contains useful essays and surveys, full track listings and brief biographies of the performers…Certainly a set of historical interest. © 2012 Classical Net Read complete review

Frédéric Cardin
La Scena Musicale, October 2012

The superb collection, heavily documented, showcases a plethora of melodies from the end of the 1890s, including the original version of the Gurrelieder for voice and piano, dating from 1901! A few cabaret songs, in addition to song cycles featuring three to eight pieces, complete a fascinating anthology. It is difficult to find such a detailed production on the market. The quality of the performers is undeniable, and the sound recording is excellent. A must-have. © 2012 La Scena Musicale Read complete review

Norman Lebrecht
La Scena Musicale, July 2012

Song by song by Schoenberg is an album no-one has attempted before, and the more one spins through four CDs the more revealing it becomes. Who knew that the great revolutionary wrote so many little ditties, and of such trifling banality?

The singing here is accurate, beautiful and exemplary. Claudia Barainsky and Melanie Diener are the sopranos, Anke Vondung the mezzo, Christa Mayer the contralto, Markus Schäffer the tenor and Konrad Jarnot the head-and-shoulders standout baritone. Urs Liska accompanies, and the sound could not be better. Throw out your old recordings of Schoenberg songs: this is the set to have. © 2012 Lebrecht Report/La Scena Musicale Read complete review

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