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Hans PFITZNER (1869-1949)
Complete Lieder - Volume 3
Tanja Ariane Baumgartner (mezzo-soprano), Britta Stallmeister (soprano)
Kinderkantorei der Christuskirche Freiburg
Klaus Simon (piano)
rec. 2012, Schlossbergsaal des SWR-Landesstudios, Freiburg, Germany
NAXOS 8.573081 [58:41]

Naxos has recently issued very good discs of romantic Lieder, including those by Peter Cornelius (four volumes) and Hans Pfitzner (three volumes). I enjoyed Pfitzner’s volume 1.

Pfitzner was born in Moscow, where his father was a theatre musician. When he was two, his family returned to Frankfurt. He was something of a musical prodigy. He composed his first songs at the tender age of twelve, and entered the Hoch Conservatory two years later. After completing his studies, he gained a number of jobs as teacher and conductor. That made him regarded as one of Germany’s leading composers, seen by many as the equal of Richard Strauss. During Nazi rule, he soon fell out with the regime because of his friendship with Jewish musicians and his outspokenness. After the war, his reputation never really returned to its former heights. Even so, there are a number of fine recordings of his music, mainly on the CPO label. That includes five discs of complete songs with piano (999 789-2), featuring the likes of Iris Vermillion, Robert Holl and Christoph Prégardien.

The CPO set shines, so the Naxos ongoing enterprise has stiff competition. Listening to the first volume (8.572602), however, I was quite taken with the soprano Britta Stallmeister, who also appears on this new disc. Naxos has reasonably employed a pianist and a handful of singers who appear throughout their complete editions – that benefited the Cornelius Edition greatly.

Here, the mezzo-soprano Tanja Ariane Baumgartner sings the first nine songs very well indeed. By the way, three of them appear on Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s fine Orfeo disc (C 036 821 A); the great baritone gave a totally different dimension to these songs, especially Abendrot Op. 24 No. 4. Baumgartner goes on to sing the Sechs Lieder Op. 40 with great authority and feeling. I particularly like her rendition of the last two songs of the series, Goethe’s famous text Wanderers Nachtlied, which Pfitzner treats quite differently, and Eichendorf’s Der Weckruf. The soprano Britta Stallmeister sings the rest of these songs with the clarity and personality that she brought to Volume 1, showing great emotion and variety of voice in the Sechs Liebeslieder Op. 35. The texts by Ricarda Huch, an unfamiliar name, lend themselves well to the music. The opening Bestimmung is quite wonderful. Stallmeister is joined on the last track of the disc by Kinderkantorei der Christuskirche Freiburg. The result is lovely. Simple piano at first accompanies the soprano, then for the second verse the children’s choir take over, and the piano line becomes more expressive and complicated.

The singing is good throughout, but it makes me want to acquire the CPO set all the more. The driving force behind the Naxos disc, and indeed the whole series, is the pianist Klaus Simon. As in Volume 1, he gives a first-class performance, which gets the best out of the singers. The recorded sound is very good. The booklet notes are brief but informative, the sung texts and English translations are available online. An interesting and welcome release. I look forward to further releases in the series.

Stuart Sillitoe

Lieder (5), Op. 11 Nos. 1 & 2
Lieder (4), Op. 15 No. 3
Lieder (4), Op. 24 No. 4
Lieder (5), Op. 29 Nos. 1, 2 & 4
Lieder (4), Op. 30 Nos. 1 & 3
6 Liebeslieder, Op. 35
6 Lieder, Op. 40
Die schlanke Wasserlilie WoO 14
Weihnachtslied WoO 3

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