COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Diepenbrock,Gees,Loewe,Pfitzner & Grieg,Schoeck,Schubert,Schumann,Wolf
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Follow Goethe
WORKS: Wanderers Nachtlied; Erl-Konig; Neue Liebe, neues Leben; Phanomen
PERFORMER: Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Michael Gees (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 999 685-2
More than 150 song-settings of Goethe’s poetry will be performed at London’s Wigmore Hall in the next six months; this disc limits itself to 27, but spans 150 years of Northern European composers’ responses to the 250-year-old poet. The shaping of this engagingly ordered cross-section of Goethe settings maximises the sheer variety of that response. And the recital is superbly performed. Beethoven’s ‘Neue Liebe, neues Leben’, with Michael Gees’s bold and frolicking piano accompaniment, positively leaps out from under Hugo Wolf’s rainbow, its poly-chromatic light delicately shaded in Christoph Pregardien’s shaping of ‘Phanomen’. Loewe’s ‘Erl-Konig’ is real performance art, and it gallops out from the stillness of Schubert’s ‘Wanderers Nachtlied’. In the hands of Pregardien and Gees this is a perfectly scaled recreation of silence in sound.
And moving into the twentieth century, there is Otmar Schoeck, his twilight lit by a neo-Expressionist harmonic moon in ‘Dammrung senkte sich’; and there is Alphons Diepenbrock, his piano writing recreating the tangling physical and spiritual mists of ‘Der Fischer’, better known in Schubert’s setting. And there is the music of Gees himself who contributes an ecstatically tonal setting of ‘Gegenwart’ (‘Presence’). Programming and performances alone merit an “outstanding” star; but unfortunately the production as a whole is marred by the scanty notes, poor translations and worse proof-reading which seem to haunt this label. Hilary Finch