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  • Schubert: Schwanengesang,D.957 / Brahms: 4 Last Songs,Op.121
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Schubert: Schwanengesang,D.957 / Brahms: 4 Last Songs,Op.121

9 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 14, 2001
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Schubert: Schwanengesang,D.957 / Brahms: 4 Last Songs,Op.121 + Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Amazon.com

Baritone Thomas Quasthoff here tackles two of the cornerstones of the lieder repertory, and the result is one of the most moving, exciting lieder discs in years. Much of its appeal lies in his attractive vocalism, a rich, firm voice comfortable with both the lyric and dramatic demands of these songs. Throughout, Quasthoff threads the fine line between maintaining the songs' musical thread and interpreting the texts without the distortions of overemphasis. Above all, he communicates directly; the songs seem to go from heart to heart. In Schubert's late Schwanengesang--never intended as a seamless cycle--Quasthoff makes these 14 gems adhere as a whole, something that eludes many others. And he's helped by Justus Zeyen's accompaniment, beautifully balanced by the engineers and full of telling pictorial touches. Fine as the Schubert performances are, they're trumped by the Brahms, in one of the most compelling recorded performances they've ever had. The texts, culled from the Bible, drew from Brahms some of his most moving music, here delivered by Quasthoff with empathy and an inevitability that feels spontaneous. It's obvious that the singer feels them deeply, and because he does, and welds that feeling to the highest vocal and musical values, you do, too. --Dan Davis

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.
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Product Details

  • Performer: Justus Zeyen
  • Composer: Franz [Vienna] Schubert, Johannes Brahms
  • Audio CD (August 14, 2001)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B00005AAFB
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,385 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By melanieeskenazi@blueyonder.co.uk on August 22, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Thomas Quasthoff/Justus Zeyen - Schubert, "Schwanengesang" Brahms "Vier Ernste Gesaenge"
"To sing like that just once - and then ..............." wrote Maxim Gorky after hearing Chaliapin - and there really are moments on this recording which make one understand exactly what he meant. There is a definitive quality about the singing, which persuades you that Quasthoff's way with these songs is the only one, and his accompanist is in all aspects his equal, with a poetic yet muscular style which ideally complements this most individual of voices, with its noble, burnished tone and its sense of powerful ease.
This combination of works is unique on disc, surprisingly since it is a very logical one; both are late works, both represent the composer's valediction to the genre, and both are ideally suited to the baritone voice. There has been much discussion of late as to whether or not "Schwanengesang" ought to be performed as though it were a "cycle," or as two or even three separate sets of songs. The latter approach was taken in the Hyperion edition, not entirely successfully, but Quasthoff brushes aside these considerations; such is the magnetic power of his singing that one rarely imagines that these songs could be performed in any other way.
All of Quasthoff's great qualities are apparent in the Rellstab settings - superb legato line, natural inflexion of words and that uniquely beautiful tone with its embracing warmth and sweet tremulousness. These interpretations easily stand comparison with the best, and it is a matter of taste as to whether or not you prefer, say, John Mark Ainsley's bright, youthful tone and ardent manner to Quasthoff's aching yet understated passion.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By jhorro on September 14, 2001
Format: Audio CD
All of this music is familiar territory for Thomas Quasthoff, so it is not surprising that he conveys a consistency of mood and character. He is not afraid to color his voice in the Schubert and have some restraint in the Brahms, but both are sung in good taste. The recording is warm and captures Quasthoff's voice superbly. There are many voices that will do justice to this music, but Quasthoff knows just how to make his voice meet the demands of these works.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 9, 2002
Format: Audio CD
I never thought I would hear anything like Thomas Quasthoff's performances on this CD. His plain, unaffected, yet technically masterful singing is more than "revelatory." It transmits the emotional impact of the songs very powerfully and with a directness I have never heard from any other singer, whether lieder specialist or not.
Quasthoff, I think, is leading the way as a singer and artist. All singers will be grateful to him, as will the public, for exposing us to lieder which is heart felt, rather than just a mass of calculations. He is indeed a master.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Moore TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 19, 2011
Format: Audio CD
This recording was made in late 2000 when, we may now safely say with the benefit of hindsight, Thomas Quasthoff was at his absolute peak as a singer. It marks both an interpretative and vocal advance over his earlier, already very impressive, Schubert recital and we may marvel afresh at how flexible and even his voice is from the ringing top notes down to the trenchant, teaky bottom. He is billed as a baritone but is essentially a bass-baritone in that he sings the Brahms songs only a tone higher than a true bass like Kurt Moll. He thus combines the colouring of a bass with the ease of a high baritone, so the tessitura of these two song cycles (if we may properly call "Schwanengesang" that) holds no terrors for him; there is never any sense of strain. Listen to the descending passage digging down to a black low G on "Waffenbrüder" in "Kriegers Ahnung". Nor does he have to pull the trick of defaulting into an "arty" half-voice unless he really wants to; hence at times his voice rings out with the heft of an operatic baritone with real Italianate "ping" (such as at the beginning of no. 3 "O Tod"), yet at other times he employs a gentle falsetto such as we hear at the end of the same song.

The accompaniment by pianist Justus Zeyen could not be bettered; he is subtle, nuanced, lilting and impassioned by turns, complementing Quasthoff's every mood with perfectly judged dynamics. I could have done with just a tad more sense of release and bittersweet joy such as Terfel and Fassbaender bring to my favourite song "Die Taubenpost", the last and a late addition to "Schwanengesang". Quasthoff and Zeyen are rather reflective and melancholy here - but Shirley-Quirk does it that way, too and it is very beautiful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer on September 21, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Thomas Quasthoff's triumphant life, despite unimaginable adversities, surely qualifies him for interpreting the "Four Earnest Songs" of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) with more emotional authenticity than any other baritone I can think of. That wouldn't be enough, of course, if Quasthoff didn't also have a superb 'instrument' - his voice - and equally superb vocal technique. To my ears, the Lieder of Brahms and Schubert are Quasthoff's natural repertoire; I don't enjoy his Bach or his Mahler nearly as much; he lacks the agility for the former and the 'sprezzatura' for the latter. His recordings of Schubert's "Winterreise' and "Schöne Müllerin" -- the latter also accompanied by pianist Justus Zeyen -- have been justly acclaimed and are among my favorites in the genre. This performance, of songs written in the last years of the lives of Brahms and Franz Schubert (1797-1828), moves me deeply. I offer it as my choice for Quasthoff's finest recording.

The fourteen songs conventionally grouped as a cycle and given the title "Schwanengesang" - Swansong - are settings of seven poems by Ludwig Rellstab, six poems by Heinrich Heine, and one anomalously cheerful poem by Johann Seidl. It's only a musicologist's guess that Schubert would have assembled these 14 Lieder into precisely such a cycle; the title "Schwanengesang" was the invention of the publishers of the posthumous first edition. Honestly, I don't think the cycle is well-assembled as such; the seven Rellstab songs make a grand cycle all by themselves, a cycle with potently cogent affect as well as musical unity, while the Heine songs, lovely and delicate as they are, seem clearer and more poignant by themselves. The final Lied, the amourous "Taubenpost", plainly belongs in different company.
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