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Lieder orchestrated by:
Berlioz · Britten · Brahms · Liszt
Offenbach · Reger · Webern

Anne Sofie von Otter
Thomas Quasthoff
Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Claudio Abbado

Deutsche Grammophon CD 471 586-2 [73 mins]


Track List:
Anne Sofie von Otter
1. Romance from Rosamunde: "Der Vollmond strahlt" -
2. Die Forelle D 550, orchestrated by Benjamin Britten
3. Ellens II. Gesang D 838, orch. Brahms: "Jäger, ruhr vor der Jagd!"
4. Gretchen am Spinnrade D 118, orch. Reger
5. An Silvia D 891, orch. anon
6. Im Abendrot D 799, orch. Reger
7. Nacht und Träume D 827, orch. Reger
8. Gruppe aus dem Tartarus D 583, orch. Reger
9. Erlkönig D 328, orch. Berlioz
10. Die junge Nonne D 828, orch. Liszt
20. Geheimes D 719, orch. Brahms
Thomas Quasthoff
11. Tränenregen D 795 (Die schöne Müllerin), orch. Webern
12. Der Wegweiser D 911 (Winterreise), orch. Webern
13. Du bist die Ruh' D 776, orch. Webern
14. Ihr Bild D 957 (Schwanengesang), orch. Webern -
15. Prometheus D 674, orch. Reger
16. Memnon D 541, orch. Brahms
17. An Schwager Kronos D 369, orch. Brahms
18. An die Musik D 547, orch. Reger
19. Erlkönig D 328, orch. Reger
21. Ständchen (Serenade) D 957 (Schwanengesang), orch Offenbach

This CD will give a lot of undemanding pleasure to CD collectors who like orchestras and orchestral concerts better than lieder recitals with piano, and there are probably many of them. It will however not displace the best accounts of these songs with piano.

I had wondered why the two singers had their tracks separated in two long halves, instead of alternated in groups as is more usual for shared recitals. Recording dates are not provided, and it took some time to establish that the live CD is "the product of (separate) concerts at Paris's Cité de la Musique last spring"; I wondered how 'live' the recordings really are, as there is never a hint of an audience? Could the singers even have been miked at the concerts? The singing has an intimate, confidential character, with never any indication that there is an orchestra to have to rise above.

That said, it is very pleasant listening, with both favourite singers in excellent voice and supported mellifluously by Abbado and the COE. I say mellifluously, because there is a touch of overall blandness, which I think must be put down to the cautiousness of the composer arrangers; no revelations can be expected, they are mostly workmanlike 'accompaniments', whereas now we expect lieder pianists to be equal partners.

Best are Britten's The Trout and Offenbach's Serenade. Brahms uses horns to good effect in Ellen's 2nd Song. Webern's are conventional exercises in orchestration, and you would be hard put to guess some of the other composers. Don't let me put you off; it is excellently produced and will be a deserved success.

For far more interesting explorations of the arts of arrangement and recomposition, see my review of Aho's Mussorgsky orchestrations, with the conclusion: "Perhaps my problem is that the recomposition does not go far enough; I prefer, for example, the far more radical approaches of Hans Zender with Winterreise (RCA Red Seal 9026680672), and Uri Caine's recompositions of Mahler and Beethoven." Do check out these links.

Tracks from DG's orchestrated Schubert Lieder CD can be heard at the Amazon website, so you can easily decide for yourself before purchasing; always the best way.


© Peter Grahame Woolf