Tuesday 27 September 2016

Lieder column (slight return)

A while ago now, I wrote a couple of Specs posts which each looked at different performances of a particular art song. I was planning to carry on this occasional 'Lieder Column' series and - world-class pun notwithstanding - intended to look at not just German song but also French 'mélodies' along with favourites from any other nation I cared to aurally visit.

I'm not sure what happened, but I never really got back to it. Clearly other, subsequent posts all seemed more pressing or topical at the time, and got in the way. And in passing, I have a feeling - though I could be wrong - that there isn't quite the dizzying variety of versions on YouTube that there used to be, with copyright restrictions making some videos 'unshareable', or simply absent.

So I was delighted to be included in an ongoing Twitter enterprise called 'Some Of My Favourite Songs'. Each participant posts one song a day for a week, before handing the baton on to someone else. The hashtag is worded very kindly, as to try and think of this as one's definitive 'Top 7' is agonisingly restrictive. Schubert, widely regarded as the master of the form with more than 600 songs to his name, is my favourite composer for a start: I could probably have reeled off a top twenty without thinking about any other contenders at all.

With this in mind, while there are no 'rules', I imposed a couple on myself. 1 - I would post a different composer each day. 2 - I would try and choose songs where I also admired the performance, as well as the piece itself. It was enormous fun - not without the odd frustrating moment (*shakes fist at YouTube*), but overall a glorious excuse to indulge in ceaseless, bite-size portions of bliss.

I thought I would archive my seven choices here on the blog - and (as it's MY blog) upscale it slightly to a selection of 10 songs. The final three were 'bubbling under' but didn't make the cut (if only because I would've repeated a composer.) I hope you enjoy them.

Debussy: 'De grève' (at 6:51), performed by Christine Schäfer and Irwin Gage. (I think this might have the most extraordinary closing moments of any song, by anyone.)

Mussorgsky: 'Serenade', performed by Ekaterina Semenchuk and Natalia Mordashova.

Hahn: 'A Chloris', performed by Susan Graham and Malcolm Martineau.

R Strauss: 'Das Rosenband', performed by Carolyn Sampson and Joseph Middleton. (From one of my favourite CDs of recent years, 'Fleurs'.)

Schumann: 'Mondnacht', performed by Christa Ludwig and Erik Werba.

Maconchy: 'Ophelia's Song', performed by Caroline McPhie and Joseph Middleton.

Schubert: Auflösung (at 1:07:58), performed by Christoph Prégardien and Andreas Staier. (Extraordinary that this album - to me, an absolute classic - is on YouTube in its entirety. At the time of writing, a certain online retail behemoth is offering it on download for only three quid! My favourite song changes all the time, but this is right up there - I love so many versions of it, but CP's impeccable performance and even more so, AS's chiming fortepiano give this one the edge.)

R Strauss: 'September', performed by Barbara Bonney and Malcolm Martineau. (I can't resist the voice/piano version of this famous 'Last Song'.)

Schubert (arr. Reger): 'Litanei auf das fest Aller Seelen', performed by Ruby Hughes, with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra (Juanjo Mena).

Schumann: 'Widmung', performed by Leontyne Price and David Garvey.

Please visit the #SomeOfMyFavouriteSongs hashtag to hear more excellent choices. A huge thank you to all my Twitter friends involved, who are proving on a daily basis that the pleasure of the thing is as much in the listening as the choosing.

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