SCHUBERT: Scared Choral Music; Secular Choral Music; Music for Men’s Chorus – Vienna Choirboys/ Berlin Radio Choir/ Leipzig Radio Men’s Chorus/ Regensburger Domspatzen/ Rias Ch. Choir/ Berlin Men’s Choir/ Various conductors – Phoenix Edition (3 CDs)

by | Sep 3, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUBERT: Scared Choral Music; Secular Choral Music; Music for Men’s Chorus – Vienna Choirboys/ Berlin Radio Choir/ Leipzig Radio Men’s Chorus/ Regensburger Domspatzen/ Rias Chamber Choir/ Berlin men’s Choir “Carl Maria von Weber”/ Various conductors – Phoenix Edition 408 (3 CDs), 178:26 **** [Distr. by Naxos]:

Despite petitioning the editor for help and doing my best to track down the origins of these CDs, I cannot for certain determine whether these recordings are new or not; my best guess is no. Evidently with the demise of Capriccio Records in Germany (or at least an uncertain future with new owners) the powers that be have decided to form a new company, Phoenix Edition, to continue the Capriccio legacy. Of those discs by the new entity that I have reviewed recently, impressions have been very favorable. But the two clues I have about this release are 1) it is a real mix and match of performing ensembles and conductors, and 2) the music is “licensed” from Capriccio, which leads me to think that these are all reissues. The bargain price of just over five dollars per disc for the set would seem to confirm it.

It is a fine release at that, at least for Schubert choral aficionados. The first disc is a hodgepodge of lesser-known sacred music like the Tantum ergo, D 962, Stabat Mater in G-minor, D 175, and the Magnificat in C, D 486. The eminent Peter Schreier makes several appearances, and the choral and orchestral music from all of the various groups is first rate.

Disc two presents us with some secular choral music, much of it known (the Standchen of 1827 for soloist, chorus, and piano), some extracted (several excised numbers from Rosamunde), and much of it simple works written directly for chorus. Many times I shun programs like this, but I can report that listening to these in succession only confirmed in my mind what a remarkably fertile and inspired composer Schubert was; so many of these pieces, though initially smacking of the salon, are delightfully seductive in their power to simply assuage the stress of the current moment and let one relax in the easy chair.

The last disc faces a little more competition; Robert Shaw’s Telarc disc with the men of his Festival Singers provides formidable rivalry for anyone attempting these works, and his diction and recording attributes are superior to just about anything I have heard before. However, what makes this disc work is the very nature of its composition—there are multiple ensembles and conductors with a slightly different sound and approach, though all use what sounds like a fairly substantial choir.

The sound on each of these records is excellent, and the price right. You can certainly do yourself no harm if the repertory interests you.

— Steven Ritter

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