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Johann Friedrich REICHARDT & Franz Peter SCHUBERT: Lieder

[I] Johann Friedrich REICHARDT (1752 - 1814): "Gelebte Lieder" (Living Songs)
Reinaldo Dopp, tenor; Albrecht Hartmann, fortepiano
rec: Feb 24 - 25, 2014, Halle, St Laurentiuskirche
Klanglogo - KL1510 (© 2014) (40'03")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

Am Flusse; Das Bild der Liebe; Der Abschied; Der Musensohn; Der Schmetterling auf einem Grabmal; Der Stern der Liebe; Des Einsamen Klage; Des Mädchens Klage; Erinnerung; Erlkönig; Geistes Gruß; Heidenröslein; Herbstgefühl; Klage; Liebesruhe; Meeres Stille; Rastlose Liebe; Rhapsodie; Schäfers Klage; Sehnsucht; Seufzer; Trost in Tränen

[II] Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797 - 1828): Die schöne Müllerin (D 795)
Georg Poplutz, tenor; Antje Asendorf, romantic guitar; Stefan Hladek, quint bass guitar
rec: March 2014, Königstein/Taunus, Ev. Immanuelkirche
Spektral - SRL4-14129 (© 2014) (61'03")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E
Cover & track-list

Songs for solo voice on a German text belong to the mainstream repertoire of today's singers. Schubert, Schumann and Wolf composed a considerable number of Lieder which are regularly performed and recorded. The genre as we know it has its roots in the mid-18th century, when composers tried to revive a genre which was popular in the 17th century and then became obsolete due to the growing popularity of the Italian-style cantata. Telemann was one of the first to compose songs for solo voice and basso continuo, and his example was followed by composers of the Empfindsamkeit, such as Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. A number of his songs have been recorded in recent years, and so have some by Haydn. But in general the history of the German Lied in the second half of the 18th century has not been documented that well on disc. That makes any contribution to the discography of the genre most welcome, and that also goes for the disc devoted to songs by Johann Friedrich Reichardt.

The recording was made at the occasion of the bi-centenary of the composer's death in 1814, a fact which has hardly been given any attention. With his death an adventurous life came to an end. Reichardt was the son of a lutenist, and played the lute himself, as well as the violin and the keyboard, and he also acted as a singer. From 1771 he travelled extensively, meeting prominent representatives of the cultural life in Germany: composers like Franz Benda, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, J.A.P. Schulz, Hiller and Naumann and poets like Klopstock, Ramler and Lessing. Around 1780 he established friendships with Klopstock, Herder and Moses Mendelssohn, and his home in Berlin became a meeting-place for artists and intellectuals. In 1783 he founded the Concert Spirituel in Berlin, during which his own music was performed, together with works by Handel and Haydn. In 1775 he became Kapellmeister of the Royal Opera in Berlin, where from 1786, under Friedrich Wilhelm II, he got the opportunity to perform his own dramatic works. In 1791 he was given a three year 'sabbatical' which he used to travel to France. When he came back he published his impressions, showing a pretty strong sympathy for the French revolution. This led to his dismissal as Kapellmeister of the opera, and also troubled his relationship with Goethe. The next years he lived in his country estate of Giebichenstein, where the Grimm brothers, Schleiermacher, Schlegel and Novalis were his regular guests.

Reichardt was a rather conservative composer whose compositions reflect in various ways the aesthetics of the baroque era, for instance in regard to the use of Affekte. The accompaniment of most of the songs recorded by Reinaldo Dopp and Albrecht Hartmann roots in the basso continuo practice. Only in some songs the pianoforte has a more independent role, such as in Rastlose Liebe, Des Mädchens Klage and Rhapsodie. Most of the songs are strophic which limits the possibilities to express the text in the music. The programme opens with a number of songs which are light in tone and musically rather harmless, but later on we hear several songs which have considerably more depth, and some of them are quite dark in mood. Reichardt influenced Schubert and that comes clearly to the fore in settings of texts which Schubert also selected, in particular Erlkönig, Heidenröslein and Der Musensohn.

In some ways this disc is disappointing. Reichardt composed a large number of songs. "We worked on sixty of these and made a selection of thereof for the programme recorded here", Reinaldo Dopp states in the interview in the booklet. It is a mystery to me why only 22 songs from those sixty were selected. It results in a disc with a playing time of 40 minutes. As most music lovers don't know Reichardt's songs the short playing time will not persuade them to purchase this disc and that would be very regrettable. Moreover, the selection of songs is one-sided. Reichardt composed a number of ballads which are through-composed and quite dramatic. Those interested in this kind of repertoire should investigate a disc with Schiller settings, recorded by Regina Jakobi and Ulrich Eisenlohr (Cavalli Records, 1998).

Dopp has a light and agile voice which is perfectly suited to this repertoire. At first I found his performance a bit too light-weight, but that is largely due to the character of the songs. The more doleful songs come off quite well, and there is no lack of text expression. Here he also uses a wider range of his tessitura. His low register is probably a little weak; the high notes come through better. Albrecht Hartmann delivers good support on a fortepiano which is not specified but seems appropriate for the time this music was written.

Schubert's song cycles belong to his most frequently-performed vocal works. There are numerous recordings of Die schöne Müllerin in the catalogue, but the performance by the German tenor Georg Poplutz is different from most in that he is accompanied by two guitars. There is much documentary evidence that the guitar was very popular in Vienna in Schubert's time and that music for the pianoforte, including accompaniments of songs, was arranged for it. "It was on August 12, 1824 that the Wiener Zeitung first ran an advertisement for a 'cycle of poems by Wilhelm Müller (...) set to music (...) by Franz Schubert'. Notably, the publisher Leidesdorf also added that the same work would soon be appearing with a guitar accompaniment as well", Till Gerrit Waidelich states in the booklet. The first known performance of four songs from this cycle took place in 1825, and the programme leaflet indicated that they would be performed "with pianoforte accompaniment". "The fact that the accompanying instrument was specifically mentioned indicates that one could not necessarily assume that it was a given. Indeed, vocal pieces were sometimes also performed unaccompanied, or were accompanied by various other instruments or even groups of instruments".

This is not the first recording of Die schöne Müllerin with guitar accompaniment. For instance, Poplutz' colleague Hans Jörg Mammel recorded this cycle with the guitarist Matthias Kläger, who also arranged the pianoforte part for his instrument (Ars Musici, 1999). Although the latter plays a modern guitar that performance is more convincing than the present one as far as the accompaniment is concerned. That seems largely due to the use of two guitars, one of them a quint bass guitar. I haven't been able to find anything about the history of this instrument - it is not mentioned in the entry on the guitar in New Grove - but it seems highly unlikely that it existed in Schubert's time. Whereas Antje Asendorf plays a historical instrument (Franz Simon, 1832) Stefan Hladek uses a copy of a quint bass guitar of 1924. So far for authenticity. It results in the accompaniment being too heavy in the bass department and as a result lacking in agility. Broken chords don't come off very well.

That is regrettable as Poplutz delivers a rather good performance which is notable for its theatricality. I can't remember having heard such a dramatic, almost operatic interpretation of this cycle. It is realized with the means of the baroque era - the specialty of Poplutz. He articulates in a baroque manner and emphasizes single words through dynamic contrasts as one may expect in baroque cantatas and oratorios. I find that quite interesting, but I am not sure whether it is in line with the performance practice of Schubert's time. It is certainly a compelling performance, but it hasn't really convinced me. Obviously the interpreter should make sure that the context is communicated, but there are probably more and better ways to do that than how it is done here. However, it is mainly the accompaniment which makes me sceptical about this recording. Poplutz' singing of Schubert's songs is certainly worth investigating.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

Relevant links:

Reinaldo Dopp
Georg Poplutz
Antje Asendorf
Stefan Hladek

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