Decades: A Century of Song, Vol. 1

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Gail,Garat,Schubert,Sor,Tomácek,Viotti and Weber
ALBUM TITLE: Decades: A Century of Song, Vol. 1
WORKS: Works by Beethoven, Gail, Garat, Schubert, Sor, Tomácek, Viotti and Weber
PERFORMER: Michael Schade (tenor), Lorna Anderson, Sylvia Schwartz (soprano), Ann Murray (mezzo), Florian Boesch (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)


I found this disc more instructive than enjoyable. It is the first of what is to be a series, each covering one decade of German art song, something that developed with the popularity of the piano and the enormous amount of German poetry, especially by Goethe, which was ripe for setting to music.

Schubert was, of course, the first and remains the greatest composer of Lieder as a major part of his output, and fortunately this disc begins with six of his songs and concludes with another eight. The subjects are mostly the familiar ones: maidens, forlorn or forthcoming in the moonlight, longing for home, nostalgia and apprehension. The greatest of these songs is Ganymed, an audaciously erotic poem and Schubert’s most abandoned. Unfortunately it is sung here by tenor Michael Schade, a renowned singer but mainly in pinched and edgy voice in his 21 contributions. What balm to hear baritone Florian Boesch, though only in one song. His diction, and that of soprano Ann Murray, is ideal; both Schade and soprano Sylvia Schwartz, who takes most of the female songs, are unclear.

Apart from Schubert, there are four items by Beethoven, not his best or his worst contributions to the genre; and several other composers, of whom only Václav Jan Tomáek struck me as a real find, whom I shall pursue further. Malcolm Martineau, the accompanist throughout, is as always ideal. So, I’m happy to report, is the presentation, with full essay and texts and translations.


Michael Tanner