Sehnsucht: The Gents

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COMPOSERS: Röntgen & Wolf,Schubert,Schumann,Strauss
LABELS: Channel Classics
WORKS: Vocal works by Schubert, Schumann, Strauss, Röntgen & Wolf
PERFORMER: The Gents/Béni Csillag; Lenneke Ruiten (soprano), Thom Janssen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS SA 30109

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The Gents, in case you’re in any doubt, is an all-male Dutch vocal ensemble with a Hungarian conductor. Their latest album celebrates the partsongs written by composers better known for their solo Lieder: songs composed in the 19th and early 20th centuries for singing clubs, Liedertafel groups, Schubertiade and early choirs.

Hypnotically homogeneous of timbre, hushed and soft-focused, The Gents clearly relish Schubert’s songs of night and of yearning. If you’d like a little more variety of colour, definition and edge in this repertoire, you might prefer the still unsurpassed late-1990s recordings on CPO by Die Singphoniker.

And while solos for the thin, silvery filament of Lenneke Ruiten’s soprano are clearly included to vary the palette, the acoustic lurch is uncomfortable. And why not cast an alto for the solo in the Grillparzer ‘Standchen’, as Schubert wanted?

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Reger’s arrangements for male voices of Hugo Wolf’s rarely heard Eichendorff settings, the Sechs geistliche Lieder, tend to have an emollient effect on Wolf’s expressive chromaticism. But two Rückert settings by Richard Strauss, composed in 1935 for a male-voice choir in Cologne, are word-lively and imaginatively challenging for singers and listeners alike. Hilary Finch