Brahms, Schubert: Brahms: Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53; Rinaldo: Op. 50; Schubert: Gesang der Geister; Ãœber den Wassern, D714

COMPOSERS: Brahms,Schubert
LABELS: Hanssler
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms , Schubert
WORKS: Brahms: Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53; Rinaldo: Op. 50; Schubert: Gesang der Geister; Über den Wassern, D714
PERFORMER: Lioba Braun (mezzo-soprano), Carsten Süss (tenor); Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart; Radio SO of Stuttgart/Helmuth Rilling
CATALOGUE NO: HŠnssler 98.228
This interesting disc has three works which are all atypical of their composers. Male voice choruses were very popular in 19th-century Germany, but few things that were written resemble any of these pieces. Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody, the most popular piece here, is mainly for contralto and orchestra, the chorus only weighing in in the last verse.

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Lioba Braun is a decent soloist, but hardly competes with Christa Ludwig or Janet Baker. The tempo is brisk. Rinaldo is Brahms’s nearest approach – not very close – to an opera, with the celebrated knight expressing his anguish at having to leave the sorceress Armide. At just over 35 minutes, it is a fascinating and compelling work, with some characteristic surges of tone from the excellent chorus; and Carsten Suss’s Rinaldo is suitably passionate. Yet it makes an oddly inconsequential effect, no fault of this performance but rather of the fact that Armide herself is not represented (in Goethe’s poem which this sets) so there is no real feeling of a conflict of wills and passions.

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The Schubert Song of the Spirits over the Water was something he worked on over a period of several years, and this version for male chorus and string quintet is his final version of it. It is preferable, for me, as a solo item: in this choral form it sounds too hearty, but again this performance under Helmuth Rilling is vigorous. The balance between the soloists, chorus and orchestra is good. Michael Tanner