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The Songs Of Johannes Brahms Vol 1 / Angelika Kirchschlager, Graham Johnson

Brahms / Kirchschlager / Johnson
Release Date: 06/08/2010 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 33121  
Composer:  Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika KirchschlagerGraham Johnson
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BRAHMS Songs, Vol. 1 Angelika Kirchschlager (mez); Graham Johnson (pn) HYPERION 33121 (71: 28 Text and Translation)


Scheiden und Meiden, op. 19/2. In der Ferne, op. 19/3. Von ewiger Liebe, op. 43/1. 7 Lieder, op. 48. Read more 0 komme, holde Sommernacht, op. 58/4. Dämmrung senkte sich von oben, op. 59/1. Auf dem See, op. 59/2. Junge Lieder I: Meine Liebe ist grün, op. 63/5. Junge Lieder II: Wenn um den Holunder, op. 63/6. Salome, 69/8. Abendregen, op. 70/4. Therese, op. 86/1. Feldeinsamkeit, op. 86/2. Nachtwandler, op. 86/3. Über die Heide, op. 86/4. Versunken, op. 86/5. Bei dir sind meine Gedanken, op. 95/2. Beim Abschied, op. 95/3. Der Jäger, op. 95/4. Da unten im Tale, WoO33/6. Soli sich der Mond nicht heller scheinen, Wo033/35. Feinsliebchen, du sollst mir nicht barfuss gehn Wo033/12. Och Moder, ich well en Ding han!, Wo033/33


One had to wonder how long it would be before completist Graham Johnson got around to Brahms. The answer is before us. After 40 discs encompassing the complete songs of Schubert and, by comparison, a meager 11 devoted to Schumann, Johnson now embarks on a mission to record the entire piano-accompanied songs and vocal works of Brahms. If, in addition to the complete songs for solo voice, he’s also talking about all of the duets, quartets, and choruses, plus the “Magelone” cycle, and all of the Deutsche Volkslieder, Liebeslieder Waltzes, Neue Liebeslieder Waltzes , and Zigeunerlieder , Johnson’s survey will likely fill at least two dozen discs, for there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 items, not as many as Schubert, to be sure, but still an ambitious project.


Such an undertaking presents Graham with a programming challenge, which he is quick to acknowledge right off the bat in his booklet note. A majority of Brahms’s songs are grouped together under collective opus numbers, yet they are not song cycles as we understand the term. We cannot even be sure if he intended them to be performed as integral sets, though a Book 1 reviewed back in Fanfare 30:5, Brahms’s Song Collections , by Inge Van Rij, argues persuasively that harmonic relationships and structural correlations within opus-number groupings do make for a logical case to present all of the songs within a given group together.


The layout of Johnson’s program, to a degree, tends to support Van Rij’s thesis. The songs on the disc are given in ascending opus number order, though the numbers don’t necessarily match up with the chronology of their composition; and in the case of the seven songs that make up op. 48, they are presented complete. But Johnson also yields to the commonsense dictates of putting together a recital that will be sufficiently varied to hold the listener’s interest for more than an hour. Thus, he chooses individual songs from within groupings to stand alone, and even presents one group, the six songs of op. 86, almost complete, dropping the final number of the set, Todessehen . I find no cause to criticize Johnson’s approach, for whatever perceived links there may be that tie the songs within groups together, as he points out, they’re certainly not literary. There aren’t two poems in the op. 86 set, for example, that are by the same poet.


As with his Schubert and Schumann surveys, Johnson follows the text of each song with a detailed description of its narrative and an analysis of its musical setting. So far, cpo has the drop on Hyperion, with nine volumes already released in its Brahms songfest featuring Andreas Schmidt, Juliane Banse, and Helmut Deutsch. Several volumes were reviewed by Bernard Jacobson, and I was favorably impressed with Volume 9, which I reviewed as recently as 33:6. So I wouldn’t count cpo out of the running just yet; but once Hyperion’s survey is complete, all else being equal, Johnson’s album notes alone are bound to make this an invaluable collection.


Finally, we zero in on the chosen singer for this first volume, mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager. At 44, Kirchschlager has chalked up an impressive career. Engagements at Vienna’s Kammeroper and then Graz, where she sang Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier , led to her debut at the Vienna State Opera in the role of Cherubino in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro . Probably her most notable success came in 2002 when she appeared at London’s Royal Opera singing the lead role in the world premiere of Nicholas Maw’s opera Sophie’s Choice , a performance she repeated in a revised version of the work at the Washington Opera.


Meanwhile, she has racked up an impressive discography of nearly 50 albums ranging in repertoire from Bach to Zemlinsky and several mainstream operas, with bows to Richard Rodgers, Stephen Foster, and Stephen Sondheim in between. Recordings of the many operas in which she has sung have been reviewed in these pages, and hardly a sour note has been sounded by anyone regarding Kirchschlager’s voice, technique, or artistry.


Her winning streak is not about to be broken here. This is a superbly sung collection. In general, Brahms’s songs have never enjoyed the popularity that Schubert’s songs have. For one thing, they’re not as tunefully direct, the course of their melodic lines being often diverted by chromatic excursions; and for another thing, Brahms’s writing for the piano is seldom strictly accompanimental, more often enmeshing the singer in a complex, contrapuntally textured web. But most of all, the emotional and psychological moods evoked by the composer’s musical settings are not always easy to differentiate. This is one of Kirchschlager’s strengths, for in addition to the natural beauty of her voice, bull’s-eye intonation, well-regulated vibrato, and evenness of tone production and breath control, she paints Brahms’s subtly varying emotional states in a contrasting chiaroscuro that makes each song distinct. A great kickoff to a promising new series and strongly recommended.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1.
Songs (4), Op. 43: no 1, Von ewiger Liebe by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1864; Austria 
2.
Songs (7), Op. 48 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1853-1868; Germany 
3.
Songs (8), Op. 58: no 4, O komme, holde Sommernacht by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867-1871; Austria 
4.
Songs (8), Op. 59: no 1, Dämmrung senkte sich von oben by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1858-73; Austria 
5.
Songs (8), Op. 59: no 2, Auf dem See by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873; Austria 
6.
Songs (9), Op. 63: no 6, Junge Lieder II "Wenn um den Holunder" by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Austria 
7.
Songs (9), Op. 63: no 5, Junge Lieder I "Meine Liebe ist grün" by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873; Austria 
8.
Poems (5), Op. 19: no 2, Scheiden und Meiden by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1858; Germany 
9.
Poems (5), Op. 19: no 3, In der Ferne by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1858; Germany 
10.
Songs (9), Op. 69: no 8, Salome by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; Austria 
11.
Songs (4), Op. 70: no 4, Abendregen by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; Austria 
12.
Songs (6), Op. 86: no 1, Therese by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1877-79; Austria 
13.
Songs (6), Op. 86: no 2, Feldeinsamkeit by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1877-79; Austria 
14.
Songs (6), Op. 86: no 3, Nachtwandler by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1877-79; Austria 
15.
Songs (6), Op. 86: no 4, Über die Heide by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1877-79; Austria 
16.
Songs (6), Op. 86: no 5, Versunken by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Austria 
17.
Songs (7), Op. 95: no 2, Bei dir sind meine Gedanken by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1884; Austria 
18.
Songs (7), Op. 95: no 3, Beim Abschied by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1884; Austria 
19.
Songs (7), Op. 95: no 4, Der Jäger by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1884; Austria 
20.
Deutsche Volkslieder (12), WoO 35: no 5, Da unten im Tale by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
21.
Deutsche Volkslieder (49), WoO 33: no 35, Soll sich der Mond nicht heller scheinen by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893-1894; Germany 
22.
Deutsche Volkslieder (49), WoO 33: no 12, Feinsliebchen, du sollst mir nicht barfuss gehn by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893-1894; Germany 
23.
Deutsche Volkslieder (49), WoO 33: no 33, Och Moder, ich well en Ding han by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893-1894; Germany 

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