Day 363: Female Choruses II

BrahmsCD57Instant Favorite!

This morning’s CD (Brahms CD 57) is not much different from yesterday’s.

Well, that’s not true. It’s similar in that it’s another CD of female choruses performed by Chamber Choir of Europe, conducted by Nicol Matt. But something about this music grabs me by the lapels, right from the get-go.

There are 19 tracks on today’s CD, all designated Wo038 posth.

Track 1 (“No.1 Die Entfuhrung”) is absolutely beautiful. The melody is stunning. The soaring soprano voice that rises above gives me chills.

Listen for yourself. This is the exact same music to which I’m listening this morning:

There’s something about that first song…

Even though it’s in German, its arrangement is so perfect that I’m not even hearing the language. I’m mesmerized by the angelic sound of the voices.

To give you an idea of how impressed I am with today’s music, I’ve heard it 2-3 times through. Just let Repeat take me away to another time and place.

I love finding music that does that for me.

I only have one more day of listening to Brahms’ music. Tomorrow is Brahms CD 58, the end of the Brahms Complete Edition box set by Brilliant Classics.

I had no idea Brahmns was this into vocal music. Seems like 1/5 to 1/4 of his output was vocal music – and all of it in German. No Scottish folk songs. No English folk songs. Just a bunch of German-language vocal music that seemed written to please himself more than others. Or maybe he didn’t see his audience as being broader than Germany/Austria or other nearby countries that spoke and/or understood German.

I’ll reflect in greater depth tomorrow on my last day of listening to Johannes Brahms.

Day 362: Female Choruses I

BrahmsCD56Despite the fact that this is yet another CD of vocal music, this one is hauntingly beautiful.

Brahms CD 56 is comprised of female choruses, all of which sound angelic. Or monastic. These are like Gregorian chants, only with female voices.

I like it.

So much so that I think I may have to label this one another Favorite.

The Performers:

Chamber Choir of Europe

Nicol Matt conductor

Day 361: Songs and Duets III

BrahmsCD55More songs and duets.

Another pairing of a lower-range female vocalist with an upper-range female vocalist. Another round of songs that could be played at a funeral and no one would bat an eye.

There are 19 tracks on today’s CD with a total running time of just under 44 minutes.

This time, however, I can list the four sections under which the songs fall.

The Compositions:

Op. 20 (3 tracks)

Op. 61 (4 tracks)

from Op. 66 (4 tracks)

Romanzen und Lieder Op. 84 (8 tracks)

The Performers:

Letizia Scherrer soprano

Franziska Gottwald alto

Ferenc Bognar piano

I’ve heard some (perhaps all) of these compositions before.

For example, Track 4 (“Die Schwestern”). It’s a bouncy song with a nice melody and an enjoyable piano score. I’ve heard it before, perhaps within the last few days. Yesterday? It has a folk-song jauntiness to it that’s memorable.

Once again, my ears are drawn to the soprano. I prefer that soaring vocal range. However, the two vocal ranges together cancel each other out to create a sound that grates on me.

I wonder if tomorrow’s CD is Duets and Songs IV.

Gosh, I hope not.

Day 360: Songs and Duets II

BrahmsCD54Instant ugh.

A change in performers today results in a CD that’s far less enjoyable.

The Performers:

Stephanie Iranyi mezzo-soprano

Michael Volle baritone

Helmut Deutsch piano

Any time I encounter a mezzo-soprano and a baritone together I know I’m in for a fingernails-on-the-chalkboard experience.

Sure enough.

The fun that I discovered on yesterday’s CD has been replaced with songs that sound, on balance, heavy, serious, weighty, important, and lugubrious. (With few exceptions, of course, such as Track 4: “Der Jager und sein Liebchen,” which tries hard to be upbeat but that mezzo-soprano vocal range just gives me a headache.)

I just can’t get into this music.

Day 359: Songs and Duets I

BrahmsCD53At least today’s CD is not just Songs.

It’s Songs and Duets.

That makes it so much better.

There are 22 tracks on Brahms CD 53, totaling 50 minutes. Two many tracks to list here. But I will list the performers:

Simone Nold soprano

Christian Elsner tenor

Gerold Huber piano

To be fair, the duets are interesting, even compelling. The singers are wonderful, especially Simone.

One song really stood out to me: Track 6 (“Feinsliebchen Wo033 No. 12″). The “la-la-la-la” part was fun. Really serious vocalists singing what amounts to background vocals for a pop song. The bouncy song put a smile on my face. By the way, the word “Feinsliebchen” translates, roughly, to “fine sweethearts.”

And, before that smile could be wiped off my face, the next track, Track 7 (“Mein Madel hat einen Rosenmund Wo033 No. 11″) continued the “la-la-la-la” chorus in a fun, upbeat way.

I just realized what I haven’t heard yet from Brahms – any songs written and sung in English.

If memory serves, even Haydn wrote many folk songs, some of which in English.

I wonder why no English-language songs from Brahms?

This CD is better than 90% of the Songs CDs that came before, for two reasons:

1. The songs are more upbeat
2. Simone Nold

I might even listen to this CD again. (Did I just type that?)

Day 358: Songs X

BrahmsCD52A year ago, if someone had told me I’d be listening to 10 CDs in a row of Classical music songs sung in German I’d have laughed in her face.

But here I am, listening to 10 CDs in a row of Classical music songs sung in German.

But I’m not laughing.

Frankly, if I wanted to listen to this many CDs in a row that feature songs, I’d have picked The Eagles (granted, they only released seven studio albums; but I’m including their live albums and compilations) or The Beatles or Yes or even Grand Funk Railroad. (Okay. Now I’m laughing. Thinking about Grand Funk Railroad juxtaposed against Brahms’ songs gave me a hearty huckle.)

At least, the brilliant folks at Brilliant Classics have seen fit to alternate the CDs between male and female vocalists, even between vocal ranges, from CD to CD. That helps.

Today’s CD features 29 songs performed by baritone Michael Nagy and pianist Helmut Deutsch.

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of both, 29 songs – over an hour! – of roughly the same tone and tempo can be tiring. It almost seems like I’ve been listening to the same track on repeat.

Again, that is not a reflection on Brilliant Classics, Mr. Nagy, or Mr. Deutsch. The recording is superb. The performances are remarkable. But I don’t speak German, and I’m not a fan of Classical vocal music.

Your mileage may vary.

Day 357: Songs IX

BrahmsCD51Today’s CD features two sopranos, a tenor, and a pianist.

Despite the mezzo-soprano (a vocal range that’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to me), this collection of songs is kind of compelling.

Even sung in German.

There are too many songs to name (31 tracks in all, nearly 70 minutes of music). But they are divided into three sections.

The Compositions:

Songs (3 tracks)

Op. 58 (14 tracks, composed 1871; Brahms was 38)

Volks-Kinderlieder Wo031 (14 tracks)

The Performers:

Antonia Bourve soprano

Rebekka Stohr mezzo-soprano

Daniel Sans tenor

Tobias Hartlieb piano

Track 4 (Op. 58, No. 1 “Blinde Kuh”) is compelling for its bouncy, bold melody and use of the two sopranos, intertwining their ranges in a fun, almost humorous way.

Here’s precisely what I’m listening to this morning:

Here’s what the song sounds like with just one female vocalist:

The rest of the CD is pretty much the same.

For me, I believe the compelling aspect to this CD is the piano playing and the melody of the songs. It seems almost Beethoven-like in some spots – a deep, resonant piano tone with a serious-sounding melody.

Day 355: Songs VII

BrahmsCD49Even more songs.

But with a female vocalist this time.

As with most (if not all) of Brahms’ Songs CDs, there are too many compositions to list here – 27 in all this time. So I’ll just list…

The Performers:

Lenneke Ruiten soprano

Hans Adolfsen piano

Lenneke has a nice range and tone. I enjoy listening to her.

However, I do not enjoy listening to these songs by Brahms.

I’m not knocking Lenneke. Or Hans. Or even Brahms, I suppose. They just aren’t my cup of tea.

Day 354: Songs VI

BrahmsCD48More songs.

I’ve been giving it some thought.

At first blush, it seems like Brahms spent 1/4 to 1/5 of his time writing vocal compositions. Maybe even 1/3.

Seems that way, anyway.

It also seems like melody wasn’t his strong suit.

His songs are not memorable, not hummable.

In short, they’d make lousy memes or jingles for commercials.

Today’s CD (Brahms CD 48) features too many songs (28, to be exact) to list.

The Performers:

Robert Morvai tenor

Andreas Lucewicz piano

Both do a fine job with the material, although Morvai seems a little more warbly than is typical for a tenor.

But, who am I to judge? I couldn’t hold a note if someone placed it in my hands.

One song that stood out in today’s listening fare was Track 8 (“Trennung Op. 14 No. 5″). It was an upbeat song performed with verve by tenor and pianist alike. Alas, at just 74 seconds in length, it’s over much too quickly.

The rest of the music is pretty standard.

Which is to say, for me anyway, uninspiring.