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Schubert: Schwanengesang / Oliemans, Martineau

Schubert / Oliemans
Release Date: 04/12/2011 
Label:  Etcetera Records   Catalog #: 1420   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Franz Schubert
Performer:  Malcolm MartineauThomas Oliemans
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

One of the most thrilling young baritones around.

Unlike Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise Schubert’s Schwanengesang is not a song-cycle. It lacks a narrative thread. Thematically and musically they still have much in common but we don’t know if Schubert ever intended the songs to be performed as a unity. When they were published early in 1829 Schubert had been dead for some months and Tobias Haslinger, the first publisher, named the collection Schwanengesang (Swan Song) presumably to stress the fact that these were the last fruits of the composer’s genius.

The sequence consists of seven settings of poems by Rellstab, six of poems by Heine and as an encore
Read more Seidl’s Taubenpost, allotted an individual number by Deutsch for his catalogue and supposed to be the very last song Schubert wrote. This has for long been the established order when Schwanengesang has been performed in recital or on record.

Now, here comes rising baritone star Thomas Oliemans, partnered by the ever reliable and inspirational Malcolm Martineau with his version, and this is a version with a difference. In the middle of the ‘cycle’, between the Rellstab and Heine groups, Oliemans has inserted four songs to poems by Schulze. The liner-notes, a conversation between Oliemans and Calmer Roos, puzzlingly say not a world about this amendment. The Seidl songs are all late Schubert and I can only guess the theoretical background: Maybe if Schubert had lived a little longer he might have considered a cycle after all and since Müllerin consists of twenty songs and Winterreise twenty-four, he would have wished the new cycle to be about the same duration. Rummaging through his latest production of songs he would have found the Seidl songs and said. ‘Exactly what I need! There is a lack of tension leading over to Der Atlas, and this should be the true climax of the cycle.’

If that was the reason for improving the cycle I think it was a brilliant one. The four new songs are among the finest – and darkest – of Schubert’s late songs and they fit admirably into Schwanengesang, not as ‘fillers’ but as an integrated part of the whole, providing even more drama and darkness.

A while ago I wrote that Thomas Oliemans seems to be the best Francophone baritone since Gérard Souzay. Souzay was a great interpreter of the central German repertoire. Being an excellent linguist he could handle the language idiomatically and Oliemans, being Dutch, is even closer. Like Souzay it’s not just a question of pronouncing the words but understanding them and conveying their underlying meaning to the listener.

His first recital with mélodies by Fauré and Poulenc made me exclaim towards the end of the review: ‘I am convinced that this is a Lieder and Mélodies artist of rare talent’ and then award the disc a Recording Of The Month header plus, some months later, including the disc in my selected Recordings Of The Year. Expectations were high when I put the new disc in the CD-player. I wasn’t disappointed.

He makes each and every one of these delectable songs come alive, makes me listen anew to music I thought I knew inside out and find new details, new insights. He doesn’t impress through staggering exclamations and hairpin diminuendos – even if he has the capacity for both. As I jotted down about Kriegers Ahnung: ‘The intensity expressed both in decibels and finely graded nuances.’ One notices the ebb and flow of Frühlingssehnsucht, the simplicity of Ständchen and the withdrawn character of In der Ferne, where in the last stanza he colours the tone lighter and thinner but with dramatic intensity up to the last thundering chord.

Abschied is on the surface a jolly song, but in reality it is a man who tries to keep smiling while saying a painful farewell. The darker undercurrents come well to the fore in Oliemans’ reading.

The four Schulze settings, well known on their own, stand out as even more masterly in this surrounding. About Im Walde I wrote: ‘Marvellous reading! Worthy to stand beside Fischer-Dieskau!’ Regular readers may know that I am an inveterate admirer of the latter who, incidentally, was one of Oliemans’ teachers. Der Atlas, always the apex of Schwanengesang, also gets a magnificent interpretation. Then there is a lot of hushed intimacy in some of the following Heine songs, only to grab the listener by the throat in the frightening Der Doppelgänger with a tremendous build-up and the voice filled with pain. Die Taubenpost is a winning postlude.

By this issue Thomas Oliemans confirms the great impression he made with his previous recital. There is also a Winterreise that I haven’t heard. He is now one of the most thrilling young baritones around.

-- Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Schwanengesang, D 957 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Thomas Oliemans ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  All Saints Church, East Finchley, London 
Length: 50 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Im Walde, D 834 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Thomas Oliemans ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1825; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  All Saints Church, East Finchley, London 
Length: 6 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Im Frühling, D 882/Op. 101 no 1 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Thomas Oliemans (), Malcolm Martineau (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1826; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  All Saints Church, East Finchley, London 
Length: 4 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Über Wildemann, D 884/Op. 108 no 1 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Thomas Oliemans ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1826; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  All Saints Church, East Finchley, London 
Length: 1 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Auf der Bruck, D 853 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Thomas Oliemans ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1825; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  All Saints Church, East Finchley, London 
Length: 3 Minutes 24 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Interesting new voice July 11, 2014 By Thomas Tyrrell (Mountaindale, NE) See All My Reviews "Do not be put off by the first track which is the least impressive of the lot. With his dark baritone Mr. Oliemans soon demonstrates -- helped in no small way by some lovely soft but intense singing (the Germans call it Innerlichkeit) on the one hand and powerful expressive climaxes -- that he has what it takes to give a very effective account of this great cycle. He has the ability to plumb the emotional depths of the words and the music and the voice and technique to express what he finds there. Two minor cavils: the recording could have been a little more spacious and the piano tone a little more forward. Martineau should have asked the recording engineer: Am I loud enough? If you, like me, collect major recordings of fine works then this is one not to miss. If you are looking for your first and possibly only recording you will not go wrong. Other very fine recordings are by: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (the one from the 1950s with Gerald Moore on EMI, when his singing was fresher); Brigitte Fassbender, despite the fact that most of the songs are obviously male songs. And there is a very fine one by the recently deceased Finnish baritone, Tom Krause (with Irwin Gage), unfortunately currently not available. How about it, Archive CD Reissues?" Report Abuse
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