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Lieder's Dynamic Duo


BENJAMIN IVRY features Mitsuko Shirai and Hartmut Holl

Franz Schubert Lieder. Copyright (c) Capriccio

Classical song, or lieder, is one of the most discreet of the vocal arts. Requiring appreciation of poetic texts set to music, lieder reveals a composer's heart like few other musical forms. Yet it is also one of the most demanding, requiring an intensity of listening that is repaid by the delights therein. The intimate, even hidden, qualities of lieder may explain why some of the greatest modern achievements have long awaited appearance on CD.

Only now is the BBC 'Legends' series reissuing essential performances of Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms lieder by the magisterial partnership of Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten. Likewise, Testament has only just re-released long unavailable and unmatched recordings by baritone Pierre Bernac and Francis Poulenc.

The indubitable greatness of these composer/performers and their elected singers is an eternally fresh marvel. Yet the very fact that except for the beneficence of the BBC and Testament labels, these recordings would still languish in obscurity, gives pause for thought. Some writers given to reverie muse over what might have happened had the art of recording been invented a few decades earlier, preserving recordings by Beethoven, Liszt, and Chopin. Based on how most of the recording industry treats its past, we might posit that the interpretative art of these composers too would probably be buried in archives, forgotten.

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Copyright © 18 March 2000 Benjamin Ivry, New York, USA