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Schumann: An die Sterne / Graden, Elser, Orpheus Vocal Ensemble

Schuman / Orpheus Vokalensemble / Elser / Graden
Release Date: 07/30/2013 
Label:  Carus   Catalog #: 83327   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Robert Schumann
Performer:  Konrad Elser
Conductor:  Gary Graden
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Vocal Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The 23-voice German Orpheus Vocal Ensemble takes more than its title from the conductorless American chamber orchestra of the same name. While it is conducted (very capably, in the present case), it is otherwise organized along similarly democratic lines, with all its members fully involved in choices of conductors, soloists, and repertoire. All the choices are right on in this Schumann release, the ensemble’s maiden commercial recording.

Within the limits of a single composer writing in a single genre, the variety of this program is among its most appealing assets, traversing a wide range of themes and moods, with unaccompanied and accompanied works given roughly equal prominence—the latter with exemplary piano work from
Read more Konrad Elser. Chronologically, the span runs from Schumann’s post-nuptial 1840 “year of song” through one of his last completed compositions, the poignant (at least in 20-20 hindsight) Bei Schenkung eines Flügels , a presentation piece written for the 1853 gift of a new piano to his beloved Clara.

All the virtues one expects of the best modern choral recordings are present in abundance here: excellent blend, diction that’s crisp without being obtrusive, a recording acoustic that favors intimacy without sacrificing atmosphere. The chromatic twists of Schumann’s harmonic language demand the most precise intonation imaginable, and this is heard to advantage in, for example, “Die alte gute Zeit” of op. 55 and “Zuversicht” of op. 141. The conducting is involved without being overbearing, with dynamics, tempo shifts, and phrase shaping managed deftly throughout; and the chorus/piano balance in the accompanied numbers is perfect. Commendable program notes, in English, German, and French.

The closest I come to a complaint about this release is that the internal balance of the chorus strikes me as just the teensiest bit top-heavy—mildly troubling in, for example, the dialogue between men’s and women’s voices in “Ich bin geliebt” from op. 74. One can only speculate whether this results from directorial choice, hall acoustics, microphone placement, or some combination thereof; in any case, it’s far from serious enough to preclude a strong recommendation for this appealing collection.

FANFARE: James Carson
reviewing this title previously released as Carus 83173 Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Spanisches Liederspiel, Op. 74: no 7, Geständnis by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Konrad Elser (Piano)
Conductor:  Gary Graden
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Vocal Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849; Germany 
2.
Spanisches Liederspiel, Op. 74: no 9, Ich bin geliebt by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Konrad Elser (Piano)
Conductor:  Gary Graden
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Vocal Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849; Germany 
3.
Gedichte (3), Op. 29: no 1, Ländliches Lied by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Konrad Elser (Piano)
Conductor:  Gary Graden
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Vocal Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Germany 
4.
Gedichte (3), Op. 29: no 2, In meinem Garten die Nelken by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Konrad Elser (Piano)
Conductor:  Gary Graden
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Vocal Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Germany 
5.
Gedichte (3), Op. 29: no 3, Zigeunerleben by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Konrad Elser (Piano)
Conductor:  Gary Graden
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Vocal Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Germany 
6.
Lieder (5), Op. 55 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Konrad Elser (Piano)
Conductor:  Gary Graden
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Vocal Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1846; Germany 
7.
Gesänge (4) for Double Chorus, Op. 141 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Konrad Elser (Piano)
Conductor:  Gary Graden
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Vocal Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849; Germany 
8.
Beim Abschied zu singen, Op. 84 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Konrad Elser (Piano)
Conductor:  Gary Graden
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Vocal Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1847; Germany 

Sound Samples

Spanisches Liederspiel, Op. 74 (arr. for choir): No. 5. Es ist verraten
Spanisches Liederspiel, Op. 74 (arr. for choir): No. 9. Ich bin geliebt
3 Gedichte, Op. 29: No. 1. Landliches Lied
3 Gedichte, Op. 29: No. 2. Lied, "In meinem garten"
3 Gedichte, Op. 29: No. 3. Zigeunerleben
5 Lieder, Op. 55: No. 1. Das Hochlandmadchen
5 Lieder, Op. 55: No. 2. Zahnweh
5 Lieder, Op. 55: No. 3. Mich zieht es nach dem Dorfchen hin
5 Lieder, Op. 55: No. 4. Die alte gute Zeit
5 Lieder, Op. 55: No. 5. Hochlandbursch
4 Doppelchorige Gesange, Op. 141: No. 1. An die Sterne
4 Doppelchorige Gesange, Op. 141: No. 2. Ungewisses Licht
4 Doppelchorige Gesange, Op. 141: No. 3. Zuversicht
4 Doppelchorige Gesange, Op. 141: No. 4. Talismane
4 Gesange, Op. 59: No. 1. Nord oder Sud
4 Gesange, Op. 59: No. 2. Am Bodensee
4 Gesange, Op. 59: No. 3. Jagerlied
4 Gesange, Op. 59: No. 4. Gute Nacht
4 Gesange, Op. 59: No. 5. Hinterknaben-Gesang (Anhang)
Bei Schenkung eines Flugels, WoO 26, No. 4, "Die Orange und Myrthe hier"
Beim Abschied zu singen, Op. 84

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