Song Cycle features soprano Tony Arnold and guitarist Daniel Lippel, colleagues in ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), in a collection of transcriptions of Schubert lieder for voice and guitar and solo guitar.
|01||Liebesbotschaft (orig. from Schwanengesang, D. 957)|
Liebesbotschaft (orig. from Schwanengesang, D. 957)
|02||Sei mir gegrüßt (D. 741)|
Sei mir gegrüßt (D. 741)
|03||Die Post (orig. from Die Winterreise, D. 911)|
Die Post (orig. from Die Winterreise, D. 911)
|04||Der Schiffer (D. 536)|
Der Schiffer (D. 536)
|05||Aufenthalt (orig. from Schwanengesang, D. 957)|
Aufenthalt (orig. from Schwanengesang, D. 957)
|06||Nachtstück (D. 672)|
Nachtstück (D. 672)
|07||Ständchen (orig. from Schwanengesang, D. 957)|
Ständchen (orig. from Schwanengesang, D. 957)
|08||Nacht und Träume (D. 827)|
Nacht und Träume (D. 827)
|09||Lob der Tränen (orig. D. 711)|
Lob der Tränen (orig. D. 711)
|10||Heidenröslein (D. 257)|
Heidenröslein (D. 257)
|11||Das Fischermädchen (orig. from Schwanengesang, D. 957)|
Das Fischermädchen (orig. from Schwanengesang, D. 957)
|12||Frühlingsglaube (D. 686)|
Frühlingsglaube (D. 686)
Song Cycle features soprano Tony Arnold and guitarist Daniel Lippel, colleagues in ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), in a collection of transcriptions of Schubert lieder for voice and guitar and solo guitar. These transcriptions, for solo guitar by Schubert's contemporary Johann Kaspar Mertz, and for soprano and guitar based on editions released in Vienna during Schubert's lifetime, are culled together into a "song cycle" tracing a journey through separation, darkness, and renewal. This recording was performed on a copy of a 19th century Stauffer instrument, made by German luthier Bernhard Kresse.
The Chicago Tribune writes, “anything sung by soprano Tony Arnold is worth hearing.” Hailed by the New York Times as “a bold and powerful interpreter,” she is recognized internationally as a leading proponent of new music in concert and recording, praised for her sparkling and insightful performances of the most daunting contemporary scores. A first-prize laureate of the both the Gaudeamus International Competition (NL) and the Louise D. McMahon Competition (USA), Ms. Arnold has collaborated with the most cutting-edge composers and instrumentalists on the world stage, receiving consistent critical accolades for a voice of beauty and warmth, an uncanny technical facility, sterling musicianship, and riveting stage presence. “Simply put, she is a rock-star in this genre”(Sequenza 21).
Guitarist Dan Lippel, called a "modern guitar polymath (Guitar Review)" and an "exciting soloist" (NY Times) is active as a soloist, chamber musician, and recording artist. He has been the guitarist for the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) since 2005 and new music quartet Flexible Music since 2003. Recent performance highlights include recitals at Sinus Ton Festival (Germany), University of Texas at San Antonio, MOCA Cleveland, Center for New Music in San Francisco, and chamber performances at the Macau Music Festival (China), Sibelius Academy (Finland), Cologne's Acht Brücken Festival (Germany), and the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. He has appeared as a guest with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and New York New Music Ensemble, among others, and recorded for Kairos, Bridge, Albany, Starkland, Centaur, and Fat Cat.
A Different and Enchanting Schubert Lieder Recital Transcriptions of lieder for solo instruments were common during the composer's lifetime, and have been made constantly ever since; think of perennial audience favorite often offered by recitalists as an encore, Franz Liszt's transcription for piano solo of Robert Schumann's "Widmung," for example. Many were made for household use by talented amateur musicians, although few such household musicians would have been able to execute Liszt's. These publications include a group of six of Schubert's lieder transcribed for solo guitar by Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-56), published by Carl Haslinger in Vienna in 1845 under the title 6 Schubert'sche lieder: für die guitare übertragen von J.K. Mertz [see the original score here, item 62], that may well not have been playable by an amateur either.
The CD offers all six, strictly alternating with six other lieder taken and/or adapted from Franz Schubert: Sixteen Songs with Guitar Accompaniment compiled by Thomas Heck and published by Tecla Editions in 1980 [Napoléon Coste, (1805-83) published, ca. 1836, a set of 13, setting French translations of the texts, including some of the same ones, also re-issued by Tecla in 2011.] The above listing is primarily alphabetical; an * indicates those that are sung. Note that all these are individual songs, not extracted from Schubert's cycles, while nearly all the solo guitar transcriptions are: four from the posthumously published Schwanengesang and one from Die Winterreise. They are arranged here to create a sort of cycle sub-divided into four parts entitled: "Separation" (3 songs), "Independence" (2), "Darkness" (3), and "Renewal" (4). The ordering of the solo guitar pieces does not follow Mertz's ("Lob der Tränen," "Liebesbotschaft," "Aufenthalt," "Ständchen," "Die Post," and "Das Fischermädchen"); neither do the sung songs follow Heck's. This is perhaps irrelevant, unless the compilers had reasons for their sequences
Regardless of this unnecessary pseudo-cycle conceit, the progression of the recital is pleasing. The performances are all outstanding. Regular readers of my pieces will know that in general I find earlier instruments, particularly pianos, more pleasing to the ear, warmer and more melodious, for the music of their times than modern ones. If this replica guitar is any indication, the same would appear to be true for that instrument. Lippel handles it marvelously; I have rarely heard a guitarist produce sounds that are so crisp and precise yet also so eminently harmonious. In spite of the fact that many were written for male voices, Arnold communicates the texts well. Her good German diction is as crisp as Lippel's fingerings, and her delivery pleasant, with limited and well controlled vibrato, as suits this music.
The booklet gives the texts of all 12 lieder in the original German and English translations, with poets credited below the translations, but translators not credited anywhere, all in white print superimposed on black-and-white photos of scenes of natural settings devoid of people. A brief note about period transcriptions in general and the specifics about these, and some comments by critics about the two musicians (though no bios), appears on its last page, the inside of the back cover. I needed a magnifying glass to read anything in it. Both covers are color photos of natural scenes, also devoid of people, as are both covers of the cardstock sleeve and the inside of its front that forms a sleeve/pocket for the booklet, with track listings (without timings or total time) superimposed in white print on the back one. Credits appear beneath the clear plastic tray. Both artists are members of ICE, the International Contemporary Ensemble, which is clearly also interested in historically-informed performances if this issue is any indication.
My primary complaint about this recording is its length: it's only half full, or from my perspective, it remains half empty! It should have been fleshed out, and an easy way to do so would be to offer a sung version of the six lieder that are given only in their transcriptions for solo guitar by Mertz. Lippel undoubtedly has enough talent to have arranged them thus. This would have filled approximately half of the remaining available space. Some additional songs from Heck's collection could have been added to complete the roughly 80 minutes available on a CD. If this represents a live recital, the audience must have been left feeling hungry for more, as I was!
- Marvin Ward, February 28, 2013
Lieder by Franz Schubert in transcriptions for solo guitar and soprano and guitar. You read that correctly. As unlikely a combination as it may seem, there is actually precedent. In order to promote performances of their music, either amateur or professional, composers of the period made, or had made, transcriptions of this type. A virtuoso pianist would make his own transcriptions of other composers' music, often turning the intimate into a virtuoso extravaganza. In 1845 the Viennese publisher Carl Haslinger produced a transcription for solo guitar by Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-56) of six of Schubert's songs. All six are heard here. The transcriptions for voice and guitar of six other Schubert Lieder come from the 1980 set of 16 arranged by Thomas Heck.The program alternates the solo transcriptions with the vocal ones. The Lieder are arranged as a kind of song cycle divided into four sections: Separation, Independence, Darkness, Renewal. The performances are worthy ones. Soprano Arnold is bright of voice, but I would prefer a warmer, more dusky sound. Guitarist Lippel stands in well for the more dulcet forte-piano, also a preference of mine. I guess I am just old-fashioned. I prefer my Schubert in the traditional manner. The German texts with English translations are included, but good luck in reading them. The minuscule print is white letters on a black background.
Franz Schubert’s guitar is proudly displayed in his Geburtshaus in Vienna. He used it to compose when his piano had been repossessed (sadly, often). Yet he wrote very little for the instrument, beyond a few pieces for male chorus and guitar. Still, during his day, arrangements of his Lieder were frequently published, especially by Diabelli. And Liszt was not the only one making instrumental transcriptions of the songs. Guitarist-composer Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-56) did a set of six that stand out among this repertoire.
Lippel and Arnold have an interesting programming idea – the six solo transcriptions are each followed by a voice and guitar arrangement published during Schubert’s day (from a modern edition by Thomas Heck). It works quite well. The guitar solos are “Liebesbotschaft,” “Die Post,” “Aufenthalt,” “Ständchen,” “Lob der Tränen,” and “Das Fischermädchen” – four from Schwanengesang, one from Winterreise, and one other. The packaging includes texts and English translations for all the songs, including the solo transcriptions. I applaud that, but I also have to give the award for the tiniest, “death to the aging” type on a CD – that coupled with white print over a picture of a rushing stream left the text inaccessible without a magnifying glass.
These are not easy works – I’ve performed them on guitar myself – and the challenge is to capture Schubert’s heavenly melodies with all the singing sonority they need while at the same time playing the arranged piano accompaniment as support, never interfering. Lippel manages this quite well. “Aufenthalt” storms angrily, “Die Post” dances jauntily (but doesn’t fail to catch the note of despair in poet Wilhelm Müller’s lonely lover), and “Ständchen” is simply irresistible. Was there ever a more beautiful melody?
The competition here is significant. David Leisner recorded these for Azica 71223, with several Mertz solo pieces, in a supremely beautiful performance. Hubert Käppel’s recording is out of print (it also has some transcriptions of late Brahms piano works that are amazing), but can be downloaded on iTunes. But Lippel’s is still a strong performance that will reward the listener.
Arnold has worked with Lippel before, mainly in contemporary chamber music. She has a lovely voice, good intonation, and is sensitive to the text, but for my taste was too monochromatic. Lieder singing shouldn’t be operatic, but I prefer more involvement with the narrative. Her website presents her as a new- music specialist, so perhaps that area might find her more at home.
Daniel Lippel is also a new-music specialist. His website mentions nearly 40 composers who have written for him – but his discography includes Bach, Mertz and Torroba along with living composers. He does seem perfectly at home in this repertoire, and recordings of Schubert for guitar are quite rare, so it’s good to have this available.
- Ken Keaton