Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Edith Wiens (soprano); Rudolf Jansen (pianoforte); Joaquin Valdepeñas (clarinet)*
CBC MVCD 1053 65:51m

Seligkeit, D.433; Frühlingsglaube, D.686; Das Lied im Grünen, D.917; Lachen und Weinen, D.777; Der Jüngling an der Quelle, D.300; Auf dem Wasser zu singen, D.774; Die junge Nonne, D.828; Romanze from Die Verschworen (Singspiel, D.787 No.2)*; Ariette der Claudine, D.239 No.6; Der Einsame, D.800; Nacht und Träume, D.827; Die Mutter Erde, D.788; Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D.965*; Liebhaber in allen Gestalten, D.558; Fischerweise, D.881; Heidenröslein, D.257; An Silvia, D.891; An die Musik, D.547.

Despite her teutonic-sounding name Edith Wiens is Canadian, but lives in Germany and has mostly sung the German repertoire. Her voice is perhaps not very large, but it is bright, forwardly-produced, with an attractive sheen on it and a stronger lower octave than sopranos are wont to have. In Die Mutter Erde she descends to a low B with no trace of a chest voice (though some chest is brought in for the low B flats in Der Hirt auf dem Felsen). In Die junge Nonne she darkens her tone effectively and she makes the unusual decision (for a soprano) to sing Heidenröslein in F instead of G. This is a very original performances, slow and tender with the pianist, while observant of his rests, avoiding any trace of (unmarked) staccato. A far cry from the usual bouncy way of singing it, but Schubert's marking is lieblich (lovingly) so maybe this is what he wanted.

In the upper register some unevenness has to be reported. In the opening song, Seligkeit, we can hear how her Fs are affected by three different vowels in the words Saal (a somewhat constricted sound), Braut (very pure, almost without vibrato) and mir (absolutely lovely). Nor do the three Gs sound entirely easy. The high B in Der Hirt is coped-with rather than exquisite but the B flats in the closing section come off well and the runs are very cleanly executed.

So much for the carping. Der Jüngling an der Quelle is exquisitely sung and now is the time to note how much the mellow tones of Rudolf Jansen's piano, and the recording of it, contribute to the success of this recital. At the start of Auf dem Wasser one might object to the way he prolongs the first note of every group of semiquavers, but when the singer enters a miracle happens and the piano glistens and shimmers around the voice in a way it so often just fails to. Many a more famous version seems earthbound after this. Other highlights are a gently assuaging Frühlingsglaube, the beautifully spun long lines of Nacht und Träume (so memorably poised above the deep piano writing) and a gravely expressive Die Mutter Erde. The lighter pieces are charming and Die junge Nonne is impressive though Ms Wiens was probably wise not to attempt anything more dramatic. The clarinettist is adequate rather than exceptional but it was a good idea to lift an aria with a prominent clarinet obbligato from one of Schubert's little-known operas as a companion to Der Hirt. Only An die Musik is not quite the sublime conclusion one might have hoped for since here the pianist's systematic prolonging of the first of all his four-quaver groups in his interlude and postlude really does bog the music down. Try the Mathis/Johnson version in the Hyperion complete edition for something simpler and ultimately more effective.

Texts and translations into English (by Richard Wigmore) and French are supplied but the insert notes seem to be aimed at the under-fives. Otherwise this disc is as good a starting-point for the newcomer as any, while connoisseurs will find at least some performances equal to any they have heard.

One last question. This record was published in 1992, so how about some more recent thoughts on Schubert from Ms Wiens's?


Christopher Howell


Christopher Howell

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