SCHUMANN Ballade des Harfners. Wer nie sein Brot. Wer sich der Einsamkeit er gibt. An die Türen will ich schleichen. Der Handschuh. Nachtlied. SCHUBERT Der Fischer. Der König in Thule. Die Bürgschaft. Gruppe aus dem Tartarus. Hektors Abschied.1 Prometheus. Grenzen der Menschheit. An Schwager Kronos • Johannes Martin Kränzle (bar); 1Theresa Kronthaler (mez); Hilko Dumno (pn) •Read more CHALLENGE 72600 (67:35 Text and Translation)
This is an interestingly programmed recital, expressively performed and presented with an informative and provocative booklet. The title, Grenzen der Menschheit, translates as “The Limits of Mankind” and the disc features songs set to highly dramatic texts by Goethe and Schiller. In an interview with the baritone included in the booklet, Kränzle indicates that the spark for the disc was Schubert’s remarkable Die Bürgschaft (The Hostage), a 17-minute song setting a poem of Schiller. This is more like a monodrama than a song, telling the story (set in ancient Syracuse) of a man sentenced to death by Dionysius but given three days to attend his sister’s wedding, if his friend will remain as a hostage in his place. If the man does not return, his friend will be killed in his stead. Despite many obstacles placed in his way, he does come back, and Dionysius is so moved by this act of bravery that he frees both. Grief, hope, anguish, and ultimately love and peace are all inherent in this song, and Kränzle brings them all to the fore appropriately. This song represents well the range of emotions and levels of intensity of the entire recital. There are some songs that are more intimate and gentle (Kränzle refers to them as “islands of repose”) sprinkled through the disc, to help avoid monotony and fatigue from too much angst.
Kränzle’s voice is darker than, say, Fischer-Dieskau’s, Prey’s, and those of many other baritones heard in this repertoire. It is no surprise to learn that he has sung roles like Alberich in Das Rheingold and Bolkonski in Prokofiev’s War and Peace, as well as lighter roles like Papageno. Although he produces a gentle, smooth legato when the music calls for it, the disc is perhaps more notable for dramatic expressiveness; his dark sound is very well suited to this material. He pays considerable attention to the texts, with crisp diction and imaginative inflections. It isn’t particularly “pretty” singing, but for most of this material it shouldn’t be.
Hilko Dumno is Kränzle’s regular pianist, and they have a strong partnership. Dumno’s playing is colorful and matches the singer in dramatic impact. Theresa Kronthaler is the mezzo-soprano who partner’s Kränzle as Andromache in Hektors Abschied, and her throaty, thin tone does not add to our pleasure. The recorded sound is mostly well-balanced, if slightly favoring the singer, and the piano tone seems a bit thin, but this is minor.
I can recommend this with enthusiasm. It is not for background listening, but is a compelling recital if you let yourself be completely engaged. These are not lyrical ballads sung smoothly, but highly dramatic songs by two geniuses of the Lieder art form, imaginatively, even grippingly, performed.
Prometheus, D 674by Franz Schubert Performer:
Johannes Martin Kränzle (Baritone),
Hilko Dumno (Piano)
Period: Romantic Written: 1819; Vienna, Austria
Hektors Abschied, D 312/Op. 58 no 1by Franz Schubert Performer:
Johannes Martin Kränzle (Baritone),
Hilko Dumno (Piano),
Theresa Kronthaler (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: Romantic Written: 1815; Vienna, Austria