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The German baritone Hermann Prey was born in Berlin in 1929. In a career that spanned some 48 years, he became one of the most popular singers of his time and formed a great bond with his audiences through his unaffected and natural style of singing and his personal charm and acting ability. His repertoire was extremely wide and encompassed all the classic German Lieder, as well as a whole range of operatic roles from the lively Figaro of both Mozart and Rossini to more serious baritone parts in Verdi and Wagner, although it is in the lighter roles that he is most affectionately remembered. He enjoyed great success in the world’s major opera houses including Vienna, Bayreuth, Salzburg, Munich, Milan and New York, and also appeared frequently on German TV and in opera films. He died in 1998.
CD 1 begins with two groups of Lieder by Schubert to words by Schiller and Goethe, followed by a selection of 12 Deutsche Volkslieder by Brahms, while CD 2 contains a complete performance of Schubert’s great song cycle Winterreise. CD 3 is devoted to Schumann, including Dichterliebe and songs with words by Kerner, and CD 4 opens with Schumann’s Liederkreis before going on to a collection of songs by Weber.
CD 5 presents six songs by Beethoven, starting with the popular ‘Adelaide’, and these are followed by a group of songs by Liszt, concluding with his setting of Three Sonnets by Petrarch. CD 6 begins with a group of songs by various composers all to words by Goethe that were recorded in 1974 but issued for the first time in 1998 as a tribute to Prey at the time of his death. These are followed by a very attractive selection of German Folk and Wayfarer songs that show Prey in lighter mood.
In CD7 we have a group of ten descriptive ballads by Loewe including his setting of Goethe’s ‘Erlkönig’ and the traditional Scottish poem ‘Tom der Reimer’ (Tom the
Rhymer). This CD ends with a magnificent performance of Bach’s Cantata Ich habe genug with the Orchestra of the Leipzig Gewandhaus conducted by Kurt Thomas that illustrates Prey ‘s talent for German liturgical music and oratorio.
With CD 8 we move to opera in a wide range of repertoire from Baroque and Classical works by Keiser, Gluck and Mozart to the Romantic music of Wagner and Humperdinck. All the arias from French and Italian operas are sung in German, as was the practice in German opera houses at the time these recordings were made.
CD 9 brings us to some more modern operatic items by Leoncavallo Richard Strauss and Korngold and then two powerful arias by Tchaikovsky, after which the mood lifts with extracts from the operettas Gasparone by Millöcker and Boccaccio by Suppé. Finally we have four romantic songs from American musicals that Prey sings in fine idiomatic style. On this CD we also hear Prey’s frequent partner in both opera and operetta, the much loved soprano Anneliese Rothenberger, in several duets.
The final CD begins with arias from a number of German so-called ‘Spielopern’ by Kreutzer, Nessler and Lortzing before concluding in high spirits with items from operettas by those two masters of the genre, Johann Strauss II and Carl Millöcker.
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