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This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of the late nineteenth century lieder composer Hugo Wolf, and to mark this event the celebrated lyric tenor Christophe Pregardien, renowned for his work in this area of the repertoire, is joined by soprano Julia Kleiter in a recording of one of Wolf’s key compositions, the “Italienisches Liederbuch” (Italian Songbook).
Born 1956 in Limburg, Germany, Christoph Prégardien is widely regarded as among the foremost lyric tenors of our time. Over the last few years he has produced three critically acclaimed lieder recordings for Challenge Classics, the first two of which have featured Schubert’s great song cycles “Die Schöne Müllerin” (CC72292), and “Schwanengesang” (CC72302). Most recently, in 2009 he released a beautifully compiled collection of songs entitled “Between Life and Death” (CC72324). Julia Kleiter first came to prominence in 2004 when she made her debut as ‘Pamina‘ in a production “Die Zauberflöte“ at Opéra Bastille in Paris. Since then she has performed under Marc Minkowski in Paris and Madrid, and Claudio Abbado at the Edinburgh Festival.
The two parts of Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook were written in 1891 and 1896 during a period in which the composer’s physical and psychological health was rapidly deteriorating. It was to be his last important composition, Today Wolf is considered to be one of the most important 19th Century lieder composers, but that recognition was slow in coming. As late as 1931, admirers felt compelled to begin a Hugo Wolf Society to make his lieder better known via gramophone recordings.
“Both Prégardien and Kleiter (with their excellent pianist Hilko Dumno aiding and abetting) offer larger than life portrayals...Prégardien, with his baritonic tenor, finds the measure of each passing emotion; Kleiter's soprano offers both heartfelt sorrow and feisty riposte.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2010 *****
“[Prégardien's] meticulous attention to detail, and ability to establish mood and character without ever descending into caricature, are given extra definition by the baritonal quality of his lower register, and the pianist Hilko Dumno follows his lead in avoiding any kind of exaggeration...Julia Kleiter provide a nice foil, too” The Guardian, 6th January 2011 ****
“Prégardien ranks amongst the most respected artists of our time and often he sings here with vivid expression in terms of verbal intelligence...The pianist, Hilko Dumno, makes a strong impression and I cannot remember ever having heard the fearsome postlude to 'Ich hab, in Penna' played with such panache.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2011
Critics' Disc of the Year - December 2010
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Sehnsucht - The Gents
Hoffnung ('Letzte Lust und letzte Blüten')
Fiesole ('Alles Tosen ist zerstoben')
Sehnsucht (Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt), D656
Die Nacht, D983c
Ständchen 'Zögernd leise', D920/921
Grab und Mond, D893
Der Entfernten D331 (Salis-Seewis)
Nachtviolen D752 (Mayrhofer)
Nachtstück, D672 (Mayrhofer)
An Sylvia, D891
Die Lotosblume, Op. 33 No. 3
Die Rose stand im Tau, Op. 65 No. 1
Der träumende See Op. 33 Nr. 1
Vor den Türen, Op. 123 No. 1
Traumlicht, No. 2 of Drei Männerchöre AV123
Sechs Geistliche Lieder
The nineteenth century was a golden age for choral singing in Germany and Austria. Beginning in 1810, singing clubs, and later on, choral societies, shot up all over this part of the world like mushrooms. You could join a Liedertafel, Liederkranz, or Männersangverein. Carl Friedrich Zelter, Mendelssohn’s teacher and the leader of the Berliner Singverein, was the first person to use the term “Liedertafel” in 1808. The term was used to indicate an informal meeting of poets, composers, and singers who came together to sing German partsongs.
In a letter addressed to Goethe, Zelter explained that the 25 members of his Liedertafel were accustomed to sit down at a well-furnished table for a sumptuous dinner followed by an evening of singing. Zelter’s group preferred original works, so freshly composed that the ink was still wet. The goal was stimulation and promotion of German poetry and music.
The Gents is unique All-male Dutch vocal ensemble that obtained in a very short period a prominent place within the international music world. The group of young singers is praised because of their special sound, the large degree of flexibility and the unequalled interpretation of the very divergent vocal repertoire. Whether it concerns religious music from the Renaissance, romantic English music, arrangements of contemporary jazz and pop songs or especially composed works for the ensemble, the concerts of The Gents are always an extraordinary experience. The concerts can count therefore on enthusiastic public and positive criticisms in the press.
“Hypnotically homogenous of timbre, hushed and soft-focused, The Gents clearly relish Schubert's songs of night and of yearning” BBC Music Magazine
“The 18-strong Dutch ensemble bring to their enterprising programme the essential technical finesse: a rounded, unforced sonority, refined chording and balance (un-hooty male altos blend euphoniously with the high tenors on the top lines), and near-perfect intonation...They are always alive to the sound and sense of the words” Gramophone Magazine, August 2010
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Between Life and Death - Songs & Arias
Bach, J S:
Komm süsser Tod, BWV478
Feldeinsamkeit, Op. 86 No. 2
Wie rafft' ich mich auf Op. 32,1 (v.Platen)
Edward, Op. 1 No. 1 (Herder)
Der Erlkönig, Op. 1 No. 3 (Goethe)
Urlicht (from Symphony No. 2)
Revelge (Des Knaben Wunderhorn)
Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (Rückert-Lieder)
Neue Liebe, Op. 19a No. 4
Abendempfindung an Laura, K523
Schwanengesang D744 (Senn)
Der Jungling und der Tod, D545 (Spaun)
Der Tod und das Mädchen, D531
Kriegers Ahnung D 957, No. 2
Stirb, Lieb’ und Freud! Op.35, No. 2
Kuda, Kuda 'Lensky's Aria' (from Eugene Onegin)
Nein! länger trag' ich nicht die Qualen…Durch die Wälder (from Der Freischütz)
Denk es, o Seele! (No. 39 from Mörike-Lieder)
Anakreons Grab (No. 29 from Goethe-Lieder)
Ein Ständchen Euch zu bringen kam ich her (No. 22 from Italienisches Liederbuch)
Dereinst, Gedanke mein (No. 22 from Spanisches Liederbuch: Weltliche Lieder)
The selection of songs and arias on this double SACD set reflect on the fundamental question of life and death and cover a period of almost two centuries, the composers featured ranging from Bach through to Tchaikovsky. They are performed by one of the great lyric tenors of our age Christophe Prégardien, accompanied by the pianist Michael Gees. The common theme in the music of this recording is the most fundamental of all, existence itself, life and death. The composers represented are Bach, Mahler, Schubert, Schumann, Mozart, Brahms, Loewe, Wolf, Mendelssohn, and Tchaikovsky. The songs and arias performed here range over almost two centuries with eleven compositions and many musical forms, the simple song with piano accompaniment, the narrative, expansive ballad, the great opera aria and more.
Christoph Prégardien is widely regarded as among the foremost lyric tenors of our time and frequently collaborates with conductors such as Ricardo Chailly, John Elliot Gardiner, Nicolaus Harnoncourt, and Phillipe Herreweghe. He is represented on disc with more than a hundred and twenty titles, including most of his current repertoire. His recordings of German Romantic Lied repertory, particularly his recent releases on Challenge Classics of Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin, (CC72292), and Schwanengesang, (CC72302), have been highly acclaimed by the public and press and have received many major international awards.
“…far from being depressing, the programming here, both thoughtful and vividly imaginative, serves to stimulate the senses and lift the spirit. A fresh and unmannered introductory performance of Bach's 'Komm, süsser Tod' leads with both tonal and spiritual ease into an equally direct rendering of 'Urlicht' from Mahler's Second Symphony - artfully and beautifully accompanied by Gees. with a quietly impassioned and sensitively paced performance of Mahler's valedictory 'Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen', the final track fades into thin air, concluding an anthology to savour slowly, and return to many times.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2010 ****
“Such a programme demands exceptional resources in its singer, and there is probably no one presently more suited than Christoph Prégardien. His tenor, always centred as a high baritone, extends into the bass range right down to the low D of "Der Tod und das Mädchen". He can also call upon a silvery spiritual quality which serves well in songs such as Brahms's "Feldeinsamkeit" and as a final blessing over the whole recital in that last phrase of Mahler's "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen". Michael Gees is one with the singer in the dedication of his own skills and in the imaginative sympathy that informs his touch.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2010
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Günter Lamprecht (narrator), Mechthild Georg (mezzo-soprano) & Yoo-Chang Nah (baritone)
WDR Orchestra of Cologne, Helmut Froschauer
World premiere recording
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