SCHUBERT: Arias and Overtures = Schubert’s Stage Music – Daniel Behle, tenor/ L’Orfeo Barockorchester/ Michi Gaigg – Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 

SCHUBERT: Arias and Overtures = Schubert’s Stage Music [Listing below] – Daniel Behle, tenor/ L’Orfeo Barockorchester/ Michi Gaigg – Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 88985407212, 59:30 95/26/17) [Distr. by Sony] ****:

Rare arias from Schubert opera and singspiel reveals a wealth of melodic and dramatic invention.

Too often neglected, Schubert’s stage works present a rare treasury of melody and invention, finally revealed by these affectionate and conscientious realizations by conductor Michi Gaigg and tenor Daniel Gaigg, recorded June 2016. Hearing the popular 1822 Overture to The Magic Harp in “original” instruments came as a bracing shock, but the crisp articulation of instrumental entries and incisive rhythms adds an immediacy to Schubert’s singspiel, that had begun to gain independence from French and Italian models.   Following the admonition of theater director Ignaz von Mosel, Schubert meant to convey “heightened declamation and powerful, vital, warm expression of emotions,” often bearing a (surprisingly brief) Masonic or humanist message.

Schubert’s means of expression proves striking in its directness: he eschews Rossini’s penchant for canto fiorito, color writing that features trills and artificial ornaments.  Schubert’s tenor arias usually address love as ideal or thwarted, and the timbre of an oboe or clarinet intensifies the lover’s quandary between duty and honor, love and devotion. While Schubert’s arias remain chaste, he does allow ornament and color, so long as they illuminate the text and add to the richness of the context. The mind and not the ear remains the sole, intended receiver of the musical impression.

The Romanze, “Was belebt die schoene Welt?” poses the rhetorical question that sets Schubert’s fecund imagination.  Love alone “animates the beauteous world.” The melodic flow easily emulates Mozart, with oboe obbligato and resonant, muted bass chords and harp.  Would that Fritz Wunderlich had recorded this aria! From Claudine von Villa Bella, a singspiel of 1815, we hear “Es erhebt sich eine Stimme,” the pompous voice of Honor calls; but shouldn’t the young man follow the voice of the forest wherein his future bride might abide? From the same source we hear “Es murmeln die Quellen, es leuchtet der Stern,” the springs of life murmur, and the star of love glows with radiant fire. If my love were to appear, all my grief would vanish. Reads like a text from Mahler, no?

A song to a sleeping child, a mediation on the soul, an ode to Death, a lament for parting love, and the fear of his mother’s imminent death—these provide the mater for the remaining series of reflections and arias. Each lyric has an illumined, tender rendering, begging the eternal question of why most of these musical gems are both world premier recordings and/or world premiers on period instruments. Recording producer and mastering editor Andreas Werner has captured the sweet-toned Daniel Behle with immaculate emphasis on his diction and dramatic delivery, all in the service of a composer infused with the new spirit of Romanticism, which Carl Maria von Weber and Wolfgang von Goethe had engendered.

Listing:
Die Zauberharfe, D. 644: Overture and Romanze; Overture to Act II
Claudine von Villa Bella, D. 239: Aria
Die Freunde von Salamanka, D. 326: Recitative and Aria; Romanze
Adrast, D. 137: Recitative and 2 Arias
Lazarus, D. 689: Aria
Alfonso und Estrella, D. 732: Overture and 2 Arias
Fierrsabras, D. 796: Romanze and Recitative and Aria
Das Zaubergloeckchen, D. 723: Aria

—Gary Lemco

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