Notes and Editorial Reviews
Gretchen am Spinnrade,
Litanei auf das Fest Aller Seelen,
Lob der Tränen,
Die Götter Griechenlands,
Der Blumen Schmerz,
Auf dem Wasser zu singen,
Auf der Brücke,
Mary Bevan (sop);
Raphaela Papdakis (sop);
Anna Huntley (mez);
James Gilchrist (ten);
Benjamin Hulett (ten);
Daniel Norman (ten);
Marcus Farnsworth (bar); Sholto Kynoch (pn)
STONE 80321 (78:26
Text and Translation)
Here is a most unusual collection of Schubert Lieder. Eighteen songs are arranged in chronological order, with one representative song selected from each year, beginning with Schubert’s earliest known song,
, D 10, written in 1811 when he was 14, and ending with his last composed song,
, D 965a, written in 1828, shortly before his death.
If you’re wondering why there are 18 songs instead of 17—the number of years between 1811 and 1828, it’s because
, which really is Schubert’s last known song, was arbitrarily tacked on to the end of the
collection, D 957, by its first publisher, Tobias Haslinger, and there it remains today in most modern performances. So, just to cover all bases, the current CD also gives us one other, slightly earlier, song from 1828,
The nature of genius, like the words “always” and “never,” is probably best understood as an absolute, meaning that one shouldn’t necessarily expect to hear linear progress in the quality of Schubert’s compositional craftsmanship or in the depth of his musical thought. To be sure, his melodic ideas and his ways of presenting them evolved over time, but the presence of the genie that came to visit Schubert at birth and remained with him until he died is no less evident in an earlier song, like
from 1815, than it is in the concluding number from
, “Der Leiermann” from 1827. Each in its own way is an equally innovative inspiration.
The highly informative booklet note omits one crucial detail. It doesn’t tells us who came up with the idea for this program, whether it was pianist Sholto Kynoch’s brainstorm or the joint vision of the seven singers that share the honors of presenting the songs. Whoever was responsible should be congratulated, for the individual songs chosen, even if you ignore the chronological theme, make for an exceptionally satisfying recital.
Of the seven vocal soloists, I have to admit that only two who are actually familiar to me are tenor James Gilchrist, an oft-recorded singer with a wide-ranging repertoire, and Daniel Norman, who I know from Volumes 32, 33, and 35 of Hyperion’s complete Schubert songs edition. Appearances on record by the others range from a handful—Mary Bevan, Benjamin Hulett, and Marcus Farnsworth—to none that I can find reviewed in these pages—Anna Huntley and Raphaela Papadakis.
In a 36:3 review of Hugo Wolf songs, also on Stone Records, Lynn René Bayley complained about the absence of artist bios, observing that the Brits apparently assume that everyone knows everyone who is British in the performing arts. That seems to be the case here, and I agree. Except for Gilchrist and Norman, I don’t think these singers are well-known to American audiences.
Mary Bevan trained at the Royal Academy of Music, and seems to be a familiar fixture on the British opera and oratorio circuit. Benjamin Hulett studied at New College, Oxford and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. According to his bio, he has sung leading operatic roles in Hamburg, Berlin, and Amsterdam, and has appeared in both opera and concert in his native England.
Another Royal Academy trained singer is Marcus Farnsworth, who has won a couple of coveted prizes and is forging a successful career in opera, concert, and recital. Anna Huntley is also a product of the Royal Academy, and has also won a number of prizes and fellowships. She has recently joined the cast of the Welsh National Opera.
That leaves Raphaela Papadakis. Born in London, she is still undergoing finishing at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, but she has already made a number of operatic and concert appearances at various venues in London and Cambridge.
All of these artists are more than competent and deliver their assigned or chosen songs with sound vocal technique, clear diction, and convincing emotional engagement. To my ear, Daniel Norman’s tenor sounds a bit strident or shrill on the highest notes in Der
, but he banishes all doubt in a gripping
. Personally, I prefer to hear this song sung by a baritone, my favorite version being a 1964 Decca recording with Hermann Prey and Karl Engel. But I can’t fault Norman for how he uses the vocal equipment he was given. Anna Huntley delivers a very intense performance of
Gretchen am Spinnrade.
Obviously, I can’t conclude this review without mentioning the excellent keyboard support afforded all seven singers by pianist Sholto Kynoch. Not only has he had to learn the accompaniments to these 18 songs, but his task is made all the more challenging by having to adjust his tone and touch to complement the unique vocal timbres of each of the vocalists. Credit, too, goes to Stone, for a bright, but not glaring, detailed recording. Strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Nachtviolen, D 752 by Franz Schubert
Daniel Norman (Tenor),
Sholto Kynoch (Piano),
James Gilchrist (Tenor),
Marcus Farnsworth (Baritone),
Mary Bevan (Soprano),
Benjamin Hulett (Tenor),
Anna Huntley (Mezzo Soprano),
Raphaela Papadakis (Soprano)
Written: 1822; Vienna, Austria
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