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Echoes and re-echoes


Turntable Talk

We musicians have a risky habit of assuming knowledge of a composer's range of music when in reality we probably know a few favourites, and those rather sketchily. Schubert's music has, I fancy, suffered this indignity more than most in the face of such an output.

Put that theory to the test with Schubert's partsongs, of which this selection has a humbling effect. To soothe the savage breast make a start with Nachthelle, which sails over a Schubertian repeated chord accompaniment played as gossamer. The other ten can be taken at will and in any order to resurrect feelings of sheer gratitude that such a composer lived and handled basically simple material with faultless grace and beauty. There's no lack of variety: Nachtgesang im Walde with echoing and re-echoing horns, Gesang der Geister uber den Wassern luxuriously poised over the dark colours of lower strings, the unaccompanied songs, and those where Schubert wedded voices to piano textures so effortlessly.

Thankfully, the performers here are of the best. The RIAS Kammerchor under Marcus Creed bears the brunt with exceptional ensemble and unanimity of tone; and solo singers and instrumental groups play their part impeccably. Pianist Philip Mayers exploits his palette of colour to perfection. For me, this is a record of delight, allowing a composer's voice to be sensed and savoured without hindrance. Despite the outpouring of CDs these days, quality like this remains a rare feast.

Schubert: Nachtgesang

Birgit Remmer, alto
Werner Güra, tenor
Philip Mayers, piano
Scharoun Ensemble
RIAS Chamber Choir
directed by Marcus Creed

harmonia mundi   HMC 901669


Copyright © Basil Ramsey, 15 February 1999

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