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Accentus performs Schubert’s Nacht & Träume: Lieder with orchestra

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Nacht & Träume: Lieder with orchestra – arr. Berlioz, Brahms, Britten, Krawczyk, Liszt, Mottl, Reger, R Strauss & Webern
Wiebke Lehmkuhl (mezzo-soprano), Stanislas de Barbeyrac (tenor); Accentus Choir; Insula Orchestra/Laurence Equilbey
Erato 9029576943


One of the loveliest ways for composers to show their admiration for their predecessors is through arrangements. This recording unites a wide selection of orchestral arrangements of some of Schubert’s best-loved songs. Opening with a treatment of Ständchen  by Felix Mottl (arranger of Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder), we hear Schubert through Britten, Richard Strauss, Reger, Liszt, Brahms, Berlioz and Webern in a surprisingly coherent musical experience.

The revelation is the French composer Franck Krawczyk (b. 1969) whose bubbling arrangement of An Sylvia had me smiling for days. His Nacht und Träume  is a sea of warm woodwind. Der Gondelfahrer and Coronach, for male and female chorus respectively, are balanced brilliantly in his atmospheric renditions.

There are other delights. Liszt’s semi-operatic Die junge Nonne is terrific fun, conjuring up Gothic horror. We see Brahms’s unmistakable fingerprint on  Gruppe aus dem Tartarus. And Berlioz – the master orchestrator – bestows operatic grandeur on Erlkönig. Webern turns Du bist die Ruh  into a translucent, glinting jewel. And thankfully, the good bones of Schubert’s songs can support them even through over-elaborate treatments like Richard Strauss’s Ganymed.

Ultimately, Schubert’s songs were conceived through the piano, and I occasionally missed that instrument’s flexibility and responsiveness. Im Abendrot, a gloriously dignified song, felt a touch unyielding and ordinary under Laurence Equilbey’s baton. Wiebke Lehmkuhl and Stanislas de Barbeyrac match the orchestral heft well, but some slightly hasty tempos robbed a few songs of their original reflectiveness and intimacy. Still, the Insula Orchestra sounds warm and colourful in this intriguing, beautifully conceived recording.

Read more reviews of the latest Schubert recordings


Natasha Loges