Lieder von Franz Schubert in historischen Aufnahmen

Promotion Text

Lebendige Vergangenheit

One of the most questionable viewpoints when judging historic recordings is that one judges with the musical standards of the present. In the totally irrational outlook that we have attained the peak of all knowledge, one tends to evaluate the artistic productions. of earlier epochs disparagingly or, at the best, with an apologetic shrug. If this assumption were really true, then the artistic interpretation over the years would have had to have continually attained a higher level of perfection. This, however, in no way corresponds to the true findings. The validity of today's recordings is a very vague and problematic concept, since no one knows how posterity will judge the highly praised performances of the present in forty or fifty years' time. Certainly no modern Lied-singer woµld consider performing a Schubert Lied with the extreme sentimentality that - to choose a prominent example - Leo Slezak once did. But this fact alone does not say anything about the worth or worthlessness of a recording. In fact it is very instructive to trace the numerous manifestations of Schubert interpretations as performed in the course of the 20th century. Included in these productions are indeed some that can be labeled "modern", since they conform to the present tendency toward musical exactness and the renunciation of operatic gestures. On the other hand one also knows of performances in which a type of stage­ drama is attained, which corresponds to the ideas and preferences of the public of that time. Even such interpretations which have a theatrical impetus have the right to be recognized as artistic performances. In truth the "definitive" performance of a . Schubert Lied, which is sometimes postulated by critics, can never exist. It must always submit to constant change as it adjusts to.the realities of the age. And much that was called "valid" not too long ago, has meanwhile been proven to be not so irrefutable as once thought. Franz Schubert's Lieder have been apart of the standard repertoire since the earliest days of recordings, the first of which already were made in the last years of the 19th century. Schubert's songs were especially suitable for the first, experimental recordings. Not only were the chosen Lieder popular vocal works with the ideal duration that could be put on a record, but they also presented the artists with beautiful and effective material. The accompanying instrument - the piano - also played an important role. lt even took the place of the orchestra on early recordings of opera arias. The inadequate and often out-of-tune sound of the piano on old records, however, led to a type of "trauma", so that later, when one could acoustically capture the füll orchestra, the simple piano accompaniment was found to be insufficient. Thus some Lieder, including those of Franz Schubert, had to suffer a version for orchestra. Fortunately this practice was soon abandoned. This collection of Schubert recordings from the years 1927 to 1947 so thoroughly reflects the abundance of that chapter of cultural history, that one could perhaps name it: "The Schubert Song and His Singers" (to use the title from Carl Lafite's famous study from 1928). Among the 42 artists contained in this collection there are only a few that specialized completely or even partially in Lieder, e. g. Lula Mysz-Gmeiner, Elena Gerhardt and Ria Ginster. All the others were famous opera performers. How often Schubert Lieder were previously performed by heavy, dramatic voices is demonstrated by such Wagnerian singers as Friedrich Schorr, Marta Fuchs, Herbert Janssen, Franz Völker and Frida Leider. Predominantly German-speaking singers are heard on this collection. However, examples from other countries can also be found: Alexander Kipnis from the Ukraine; Dusolina Giannini, an American with ltalian parentage; the alto Marian Anderson, another American; her vocal colleague Kathleen Ferrier from England; the baritone Marco Rothmüller from Croatia. Especially noticeable is the large representation from the Nordic countries: Karin Branzell, K rsten Flagstad, Jussi Björling, Kerstin Thorborg, Aksel Schi0tz. From Schubert's birthplace, Vienna, come singers such as Lotte Schöne, Julius Patzak and Georg Hann. Austrians in today's or in the sense of the old monarchy include Richard Tauber, Leo Slezak, Rosette Anday and Josef von Manowarda. Among the "indirect" Austrians can be counted those singers, who through long work at the opera and on the concert stage in Vienna achieved a naturalization, such as Elisabeth Schumann, Lotte Lehmann, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, lrmgard Seefried and Paul Schöffler. Naturally the great Lied-singers from Germany are also represented: Karl Erb, Heinrich Rehkemper, Sigrid Onegin, Ema Berger, Karl Schmitt-Walter, Heinrich Schlusnus, Tiana Lemnitz, Gerhard Hüsch, Peter Anders, Margarete Klose, Josef Greindl and Hans Hotter. Some famous names can also be found among the piano accompanists such as Manfred Gurlitt (whose opera "Wozzeck" was recently re-discovered) and Mischa Spoliansky, the accompanist of Richard Tauber (also a composer, but of "lighter" music). The list ranges from Franz Rupp, Bruno Seidler-Winkler and Sebastian Pesch­ ko to Michael Raucheisen and Gerald Moore. This double-CD Franz Schubert Album is a presentation for his 200th birthday in 1997.