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Hymnus an das Leben - Transcriptions by Clytus Gottwald
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Dichterliebe; 4 songs - Im wunderschönen Monat Mai [1:34]: Die Rose, die Lilie [0:35]: Dein Angesicht [2:53]: Aus alten Märchen winkt es [2:37]
Robert FRANZ (1815-1892)
Five Lieder: Auf dem Meere [1:08]: Es treibt mich hin [1:09]: Im Rhein [1:05]: Kommt Feinsliebchen heut? [0:56]: Sterne mit den goldenen Füsschen [1:45]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Five lieder; Feldsinsamkeit [2:26]: Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht [2:16]: Der Schmied [0:48]: Wir wandelten [3:02]: Guten Abend, gut Nacht [1:51]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Blume und Duft [2:39]: Richard Wagner-Venezia [4:39]
Hans SOMMER (1837-1922)
Mignons Lied [3:08]: König und Floh [1:28]: Nachtlied [3:54]
Friedrich NIETZSCHE (1844-1900)
Ungewitter [2:03]: Hymnus an das Leben [3:37]
Peter CORNELIUS (1824-1874)
Drei Weihnachtslieder; Die Hirten [3:23]: Die Könige [2:33]: Simeon [2:39]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Toi, le Coeur de la Rose [2:38]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Il pleure dans mon Coeur [3:52]
KammerChor Saarbrücken/Georg Grün
rec. February 2012, SWR Studio Kaiserslautern
Texts and translations included
CARUS 83.458 [61:58]

Clytus Gottwald has always positioned himself in the direct lineage of Ligeti in his approach to the technique of choral ‘orchestration’. I have, from time to time, found some of his pronouncements a little doctrinaire whilst at other times there is just an element - maybe I am misreading him - of conceit. I’m not sure his synopsis of 1920s a capella music in his notes is wholly valid - he believes it to have been mired in the polyphonic motet tradition which had to be ‘disregarded’ to ensure ‘further development’ - but in any case it is worth pondering in the light of his own ‘orchestration’ of the Romantic music in this disc.
Listening to an hour’s worth of Gottwald’s lieder orchestrations reminds me of a pleasant afternoon nap. I’m glad to have experienced it but I’m left with a nagging feeling that I’ve - well, not exactly wasted time, but at least not quite got the point. If Ligeti opened up new perspectives with Lux aeterna, what new perspectives are being opened up by Gottwald, who is avowedly, indeed unashamedly, following on from him?
In fact I can’t recall having listened to a review disc in nearly twelve years and made so few notes. I appreciate that the orchestration of which Gottwald speaks can be a complex business, and I also appreciate that there is an inherent expansion of choral repertoire - indeed there may even be an incremental necessity for expressive poetry as a result. Clearly some choirs will welcome what he does and the opportunities thus provided in performance.
To me however the Dichterliebe settings amount to less than the sum of themselves, whilst the Brahms quintet of settings is illuminated really only by Gottwald’s ‘echo chamber’ effect in Guten Abend, gut Nacht. But Gottwald’s care over the Hans Sommer settings is also not to be scorned, nor what he does with the Friedrich Nietzsche songs. To end the selection with a song apiece from Ravel and Debussy is certainly quixotic and it strikes me as ultimately unsettling and unconvincing in the context of the programme as a whole, though they would be more appropriately placed elsewhere - indeed his settings of the French repertoire have been.
The KammerChor Saarbrücken sings well, though not as comprehensively well as the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart on a companion disc in this series [83.181 - see review].

Jonathan Woolf