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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I want to recommend 4 CDs that I'm pretty confident represent very good value and provide several hours of extremely good listening. They cover some of the best works of the lieder genre from the early/mid 19th C masters.

They are:

  1. Fritz Wunderlich: Schumann: Dichterliebe, Schubert, Beethoven Lieder (Deutsche Grammophon)
  2. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskeau: Schubert: Schwanengesang (EMI Classics)
  3. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskeau: Schubert: Winterreise (EMI Classics)
  4. Elisabeth Schwarzskopf: Schubert 24 Lieder (EMI Classics)

These three singers are the tops. The recordings are first class. Most of the material is by Schubert who is the undoubted king of lieder. There are two song cycles by Schubert, one by Schumann, 31 of Schubert's most famous individual lieder, and 5 Beethoven lieder. There is some duplication of lieder but not much. This is la-creme-de-la-creme in terms of material and singers. I have mentioned the first CD on one of the other threads. I must also say that my overall favourite is Fritz Wunderlich, who has the most fantastic voice, and in my opinion better than anyone around today. He died in 1966, age 36, following an accident.

What I did was to separate out each of the 3 song cycles, and to place all the Schubert individual lieder in a separate file, with the works set out increasing D number. I did the same for Beethoven lieder. The only caveat is that I wouldn't recommend any of this to anyone just starting out on classical music. Check it carefully beforehand as it may seem a bit odd to start with. It's nothing like opera. Lieder involves an equal weighting of voice and piano, and there is nothing very heavy about it. They are beautiful and moving songs. I find it the most gorgeous of material once you get used to it. It's much easier to listen to than opera, and makes a nice change from purely instrumental work. I find myself increasingly drawn to simpler classical works such as lieder and piano solo. It's all part of the normal learning curve for most people (big orchestral stuff to start with, simpler material later, but admittedly this is not the path for all).

Topaz
 

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Certainly first class recordings all. And I have them all. I first discovered the marvelous voice (tragically silenced so soon) of Fritz Wunderlich on the fabulous Schumann/Beethoven disc. As a Schubert lieder fanatic I must have 5 or so recordings of the Winterreise: two by Fischer-Dieskau, the one by Hans Hotter, a version by Kurt Moll (which was my first), and the Pears-Britten pairing. I might recommend some other fabulous discs of lieder:

Fischer-Dieskau's recording of Schubert's Goethe Lieder
Hans Hotter's Schwanengesang
Schubert Lieder-Gundula Janowitz
Schubert Lieder-Janet Baker
Schubert Lieder-Janet Baker/Geoffrey Parsons/Gerald Moore (EMI)
Schubert Lieder-Anne Sofie von Otter
Brahms- Lieder by Jesse Norman
Brahms- Lieder- Anne Sofie von Otter
Strauss- Four Last Songs- Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and George Szell/RSO Berlin
Mahler- Das Lied von der Erde- Ludwig and Wunderlich w/Klemperer
Mahler- Des Knaben Wunderhorn- Schwarzkopf and Fischer-Dieskau w/Szell/LSO
Mahler- Kindertotenlieder, 5 Ruckert Lieder, etc... Janet Baker/Barbirolli
Hugo Wolf- Lieder recital- Hans Hotter on Testameny
Hugo Wolf- Italianisches Liederbuch- Schwarzkopf, Fischer-Dieskau, Gerald Moore
Hugo Wolf- Spanisches Liederbuch- Schwarzkopf, Fischer-Dieskau, Gerald Moore
Hugo Wolf- Moricke Lieder- Peter Schreier

and then... there are actually some non-German (!!) art songs:

Debussy- "Forgotten Songs"- Dawn Upshaw
Faure- "La Chanson d'Eve"- Janet Baker (fabulous!)
Annne Sofie von Otter- "La Bonne Chanson" (Ravel, Martin, Chausson, Poulenc, Saint-Saens, Faure)
Cecilia Bartoli- "An Italian Songbook" (Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini songs... not operatic arias)
Grieg- Lieder- Anne Sofie von Otter
Anne Sofie von Otter- Watercolors: Swedish Songs
Anne Sofie von Otter- Wings in the Night: Swedish Songs
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
St LukesGuildOhio: Thanks for your response above. There are some very interesting CDs included in your list, which I intend to investigate further.

In the UK we get quite a bit of lieder on one of our classical radio stations, and it's usually accompanied by a welcome introduction about the background etc. This supply has made me a little slow in building up a more substantial CD collection.

I see you like the Fritz Wunderlich CD. To me, his voice stands out as one of the best tenors, just right for lieder. I have a long play list of Schubert lieder ordered by D number, which means that I have several of the same song by different artists coming up in quick succession. In every case, I like the Wunderlich version best of all. Apart from the quality of his voice, I think his breath control is the best. Terrible shame about his early death in tragic circumstances.

Do you have any other classical music interests outside lieder? I would guess maybe 19th C chamber music, and piano solo? If so, that's another couple of areas of common interest. In fact, virtually everything in the 19th C best describes my tastes.

Topaz
 

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Topaz;

My classical music interests are really all over the place. I am especially fond of vocal music and am currently exploring opera a great deal as well as choral music from the medieval period through modern/contemporary. A recent discovery I quite like: Howells. I think I became attracted to lieder initially as a bibliophile because I saw it as an art form that wed poetry and music. Incredibly... just as many great movies were made from mediocre books (at best) and many great operas from mediocre scripts (at best) so are many lieder quite mediocre as poetry. Die Winterriese, for example, is nothing to write home about... and yet Schubert is able to infuse these poems with a magic and a poetry and a profundity quite beyond the words themselves. I should note that as much as I admire 19th century lieder... I don't imagine myself as focused upon that century. Bach is my musical god... and then Mozart. As for chamber music... there are certain exceptions: Brahms clrinet pieces, Mozart's clarinet quintet and quintet for winds and piano, Beethoven's late quartets and Haydn's quartets... still I've never become a huge fan of chamber music, per se. I lean more toward solo piano works... or the concertos/symphonies/operas/requiems at the other end of the spectrum. I've always heard of the string quartet described as the perfect democratic/egalitarian musical form: 4 instruments engaged in an equal dialog or conversation. Perhaps I'm more of an elitist.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
St Lukes....: Which of the 19th C piano solo titans do you admire most, and which of their works? Are you enthusiastic about any of the 20th C piano composers like Debussy, Ravel, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov? I can think of a few members who are especially keen on the 19th C (myself included), at least one member here who is very keen on the 2Oth C.

Have you spotted the "poll" on top 10 piano concertos, and symphonies? They are slightly muddled, so be careful you find the latest threads.

You may have seen other threads here discussing various "forgotten" and "under-rated" piano solo composers. Do you have any interest in any of them? There is a "podcast" here somewhere (see under the name Mike OHara), featuring a few such composers like Field, Henselt, Balakirov, Medtner, etc. I'm sure the organisers would welcome any further feedback you may have.

I must say that while I like the string quartet, I generally prefer the piano quartet or quintet. The Schumann and Brahms works are the best.

The exception, of course, is Beethoven's mid/late string quartets which stand in a class of their own.

As for Schubert, as you might have gathered, I admire most of his works. I take it you are familiar with his religious choral works, like Mass 6, D 950. I find this to be one of the best conventional masses in the repertoire.

Topaz
 

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Among the 19th century works for solo piano Beethoven's sonatas must stand at the peak. After him I am quite enamored of Chopin... probably the Nocturnes first and foremost (Rubenstein!) altough I also like Schumann's poetic Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana, Fantasiestucke, etc... and certainly Schubert's Impromptus (Alfred Brendel!). I have recently begun to follow some of Schubert's late sonatas as well as some of Listz'z pieces. Grieg's Lyric Pieces are certainly lovely as well. If we are speaking of piano concertos... then it's Beethoven again (especially no. 4 and 5- Gillels and Kempf), Brahms (Gillels again), Schumann's, Chopin, Grieg, Tchaikovski. I must admit to having been somewhat sceptical of a good portion of Russian music until recently.

20th century piano composers? Certainly Rachmaninov. I have only recently begun to listen to all his concertos in some brilliant older recordings: Van Cliburn, Rubinstein, Gillels, Horowitz. I also have begun to explore Prokofiev with real pleasure. I love the French piano pieces, however: Ravel (Gieseking and Michelangeli for his great concerto recording), Debussy (Gieseking), Satie, Faure, etc...

As for underrated... Haydn's sonatas which I have heard in some marvelous recordings by Emmanuel Ax. John Field's and faure's Nocturnes... quite lovely all. Granados' Goyescas
 

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The Fischer-Dieskau / Brendel recording of Winterreise is the first and only recording of this cycle that I have ever heard. It is so incredibly good in all respects that I cannot possibly imagine anything being better and thus have never bothered looking up others. Can anyone recommend a more recent recording (post 1985) that can compare to this one?

 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
I have not seen before the version with Brendel. Mine is the much older version with Gerald Moore (1955?), which I thought was regarded as the classic. There is a more modern version of Winterreise by Thomas Quasthoff which has good reviews, but I haven't heard it. I guess it might be possible to sample it on Amazon. I must say that I'm happy with my version and have not had any wish to investigate others. Unfortunately, Fritz Wunderlich never got round to recording Winterreise, as far I know. If he had, that would probably have been my first choice, or at least an alternative. Also, any alternative would have to be a native German speaker, otherwise it doesn't sound quite right to me. Rather like someone other than Edith Piaf singing Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, if you know what I mean.
 

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I also find the Fischer-Dieskau recording with Jorg Demus (1962?) to be equally iconic. Fischer-Dieskau's voice may even be better on that recording. Certainly, however, I would not be without the 1955 recording with Moore. I also find that the bass voice rendering of Hans Hotter can send chills down my spine. For something quite different... a Winterreise that conveys a certain anxiety, a muscularity, a certain discomfort or inbalance (in a way that you feel glad to have experienced), I greatly recommend the Pears/Britten pairing. Certainly not my first choice... but I'm glad to have it. Rather like Gieseking's Beethoven sonatas. You imagine initially that it is all wrong... but then...
 

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Thank you for bringing up Bostridge. He is the most expressive singer I have heard--with no competition. I don't know that album; but you can hear him singing [some of] Winterreise on youtube in this music-video format with Julius Drake. Absolutely astonishing. I like the non-conformist music-video deal, I think he perfectly captures the mood. As to the lip syncing controversy: do you really expect him to sing sitting down?

 

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I have the Jorge Demus and DFD recording. It's the 1962 version. Then, Schubert's individual Lieder sung by Otter. I'll be buying Lieder with orchestra soon. Heavenly stuff...
 

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Vocal music has long been the central focus of my collection... choral, lieder, melodies, chanson, romances, madrigals, motets, chant, and of course opera. Since posting my first responses back in 2007 my collection of art song has grown exponentially... many times over. I am always on the look out for art songs of interest: American, Spanish, Argentine, German, French, Russian, British, Italian, etc... I have works of interest from around the globe... and still I ever return to Schubert.
 

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@St.lukes

I am amazed on how much devoted you are in the music of Schubert.

Would you like to post some of the most important vocal music albums you have collected ever since Topaz's original post? It would be awesome! I'm still in the process of digitalizing my music collection and your input would greatly help me.
 

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My recommendation. People need to stop sticking to Fischer-Dieskau (essentially the Karajan of singers) or other big name singers and realize that there are lots of talented lieder singers out there. Peter Schreier is one of the best lieder singers I have heard and deserves a lot more recognition.

So in other words... because you like Schreier but he has not earned the recognition that Fischer-Dieskau people need to stop sticking to Fischer-Dieskau (and other "big names") and listen to Schreier instead? First of all... might it be that the "big names" have earned their reputation for a reason? We're not talking Lady Gaga and pop music here where there is little correlation between "big names" and ability. The field of art song and lieder seems to be somewhat a specialization in which the audience is not likely to be swayed by PR.

Having said that much, I am not suggesting that Schreier is not worthy of looking into. But there are a lot of great recordings of Schubert's lieder... a good many by Fischer-Dieskau. Among the finest that I have heard:

When it comes to the performance of German lieder, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is at the core of many collections for the simple reason that he essentially established the standard against which all other recordings are measured:









As well as providing masterful recordings of each of Schubert's major song cycles, Fischer-Dieskau also recorded a large percentage of the whole of the lieder oeuvre:





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