Christian Gerhaher / Daniel Harding

Romantische Arien

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German baritone Christian Gerhaher has recorded lieder, and his fundamentally gentle, intimate, moderate-sized voice is suited to that genre. Here, however, he steps it up successfully to early Romantic opera, from Schubert up to Wagner's Tannhäuser and Otto Nicolai. If you're wondering about the two separate Schubert operas, that gives you an idea of the value of this vocal-orchestral recital: it touches on some very unfamiliar music and generally does a good job bringing it to life. Schubert's 1823 opera Alfonso und Estrella, not performed until it was revived by Liszt in 1854, has been recorded, but the excerpt from Der Graf von Gleichen, sketched out at the end of Schubert's life and left unfinished (the realization here is by Richard Dünser, made in the 1990s) is a much rarer animal. This is the highlight of the album; in Gerhaher's hands, the aria "O Himmel ... Mein Weib, O Gott, mein süßer Knabe" emerges as a real piece of Schubert's broad and harmonically pathbreaking late style. Another comparative rarity is the excerpt from Schumann's opera Genoveva, usually accounted the great failure of Schumann's later years; Gerhaher gives the excerpt "Ja wart' du bis zum jüngsten Tag" a spiky quality that is quite Wagnerian in its free speech cadences. The more melodic music from Otto Nicolai's Die Heimkehr des Verbannten, also not common on recordings, provides an effective foil. Gerhaher's voice has many surface pleasures, but his accomplishment here is to make the listener want to undertake a fresh hearing of the operas involved. A fine outing from the on-a-roll Sony Classical label, nicely recorded.

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