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Schubert: The Complete Songs

Soloists, GRAHAM JOHNSON piano

Hyperion CDS44201/40

An interim welcome for this re-packaged Schubert intégrale, dedicated to the memory of the late, great Ted Perry. Enthusiasts who already have this historic series may want the boxed set too, for its very different perspective.

On discs 1–37 you get all of Schubert's songs, recorded 1987-1999, re-ordered chronologically, and with year by year introductory essays by Graham Johnson. This means that each disc has many different singers in different stages of their careers, but there is no cross referencing to the dates of recording. The book has the complete song texts and English translations and reasonably comprehensive indexes, all in small but clear and legible print. (Many purchasers may already have the books of Fischer-Diekau and Richard Wigmore, and Schubert's song texts and translations are available on the net.)

You will however not get Johnson's fascinating and extensive notes on the individual songs, which are a particular joy in his CDs and concert programmes; a lack appreciated by Hyperion but forced upon them for costs considerations.

The collection is presented in slim jewel cases, to no obvious advantage over the Vivaldi slip cases (see below). There are additional ‘bonus discs' of songs by forty of ‘Schubert's friends and contemporaries' which will be reviewed more fully later (and are to be released as a separate set next year). Being Graham Johnson's project, it was consistent that these were also accompanied on a Steinway, but in this repertoire that sounds increasingly anachronistic to my ears, and many of those slighter songs would have made a stronger impact with period instruments.*

See my review of the original Volume 27:

- - Graham Johnson provides with each CD learned, lengthy essays about the poets and their place in Schubert's life - - each song has a line by line analysis drawing attention to its every felicity. So expansive have these literary contributions become latterly that this book(let) runs to over 70 pages, which reward careful reading - -. The generous 78 minutes recital accordingly claims double or more time's attention than that figure might indicate. Ideally, for orientation one should start with an overview of the introduction to the whole volume, then hear the songs with the texts and translations in front of you (the commentaries upon each are printed afterwards, sensibly encouraging you to skip them first time). This is quite demanding, and breaks are recommended.

Next, take the songs again one by one (making constant use of the Pause facility) reading the commentary and identifying the points (most of which would elude you otherwise) to which Johnson draws attention.

The Hyperion Edition does not encourage superficial listening to Schubert!

* "- - Performances on the ubiquitous Steinway grand will soon come to seem anachronistic and belonging 'historically' to the twentieth century (Early Music Weekend in Greenwich: PGW in The Classical Source)

Vivaldi The Complete Sacred Music

The King's Consort,Choir and soloists/Robert King

Hyperion CDS 44171/81
[13 hours]

Detailed reviewing is redundant for this famous collection, now re-issued as a convenient boxed set in slip cases.

When I was young, Vivaldi was best known as a composer of numerous concertos, mostly for strings (some thought that he wrote one concerto again and again!) and played by virtuoso ensembles like I Musici & I Virtuosi di Roma.

It was very marginal for our listening then, but gradually HIP (historically informed performance) has shown us how much more there was to Vivaldi, and recordings of the operas and these sacred works have increased appreciation of his stature and shown us what we'd been missing.

I have heard three of the discs with enormous pleasure; the music is tuneful, often deliciously orchestrated, and sung with unwavering zest by Robert King's splendid team of singers.

In the first volume the large scale Dixit Dominus raises the temperature, a tremendous tour de force by composer and Hyperion's musicians, every one of whom is acknowledged by name, a pleasing feature of the immaculate presentation.

Small quibbles are inevitable and there must be little behind-the-scene stories to which we are not privy; in an integrale collection some singers must have had to take on pieces not ideal for their voices, and may have had to cope with them when not in best voice.

To my ears a case in point was Deborah York, according to Gramophone the star of the second disc, putting her contribultion above those of Catherine Denley and our marvellous national treasure, counter-tenor James Bowman, still active and teaching; a view which I nearly concurred with by the end, though I thought Deborah was stretched by the high tessitura of the solo cantata In furore iustissimae irae and far preferred her in the others, especially Nulla in mundo pax. In Volume 3 Beatus vir has particular beauties, and I enjoyed Charles Daniels' unique timbre and virtuosity.

And so they go on; Juditha Triumphans (CDs 4 & 5) is an opera in all but name and certainly has operatic fire and freshness. Musical Pointers may return to this enticing collection, but meanwhile other delights beckon, none more than the re-release of the historic complete Schubert Songs achieved by Graham Johnson (see above).

The Hyperion website offers listening samples to complete tracks of each Vivaldi disc (still available separately) - these will help you better to decide whether to purchase the intégrale than hundreds more words of mine. Recommended unreservedly.

COMPACT DISC 1 (from CDA66769)
Magnificat RV61Oa Lauda, Jerusalem RV609 Kyrie RVS87 Credo RVS91 Dixit Dominus RVS94

COMPACT DISC 2 (from CDA66779)
In furore iustissimae irae RV626 Longe mala, umbrae, terrores RV629 Clarae stellae, scintillate RV625 Canta in prato, ride in monte RV623
Filiae maestae Jerusalem RV638 Nulla in lI!undopax sincera RV630

COMPACT DISC 3 (from CDA66789)
Dixit Dominus RV595 Domine ad adiuvandum RVS93 Credidi propter quod RV60S Beatus vir RVS98 Beatus vir RVS97

COMPACT DISCS 4 & 5 (from CDA67281/2)
Juditha Triumphans devicta Holofemes barbarie RV644

COMPACT DISC 6 (from CDA66799) ,
In turbato mare RV627 Non in pratis aut in hortis RV641 Stabat mater RV621 0 qui caeli terraeque serenitas RV631 Deus tuorum militum RV612 Confitebor tibi, Domine RV596

COMPACT DISC 7 (from CDA66809)
Beatus vir RV795 Salve Regina RV617 Laudate Dominum RV606 In exitu Israel RV604 Nisi Dominus RV608

COMPACT DISC 8 (from CDA66819)
Laetatus sum RV607 Laudate pueri RV601 Vestro Principi divino RV633 Jubilate, 0 amoeni chori RV639 and Gloria in excelsis Deo RVS88

COMPACT DISC 9 (from CDA66829)
Sum in medio tempestatum RV632 Laudate pueri RV600 Cur sagittas, cur tela RV637 Sanctorum meritis RV620 Salve Regina RV616

COMPACT DISC 10 (from CDA66839)
Gaude mater Ecclesia RV613 Vos aurae per montes RV634 Gloria Pam RV602a

COMPACT DISC 11 (from CDA66849)
Gloria RVS89 Nisi Dominus RV803 Ostro pieta RV642
GIOVANNI MARIA RUGGIERI (c1690-1720) Gloria RV ANH. 23




© Peter Grahame Woolf