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Schubert, Franz: The Complete Songs [Boxed Set, 40 CDs] Hyperion

Schubert: The Complete Songs
(Boxed set)

Schubert box set

‘This genuinely historic achievement deserves a huge new audience. Don’t miss it!’ Classic FM Magazine

Composer Franz Schubert
Performers
60 soloists – See individual CDs
Graham Johnson (piano)
Released 3 October 2005
Number of Discs: 40
Label: Hyperion
ASIN: B000B8657S

Track Listing

(From the Hyperion website) Discs 1–37 present, for the first time in recorded history, all of Schubert’s songs in chronological sequence of composition. Discs 38–40 are ‘bonus discs’ containing eighty-one songs by forty of ‘Schubert’s friends and contemporaries’ (not previously issued; these three discs will be available as a set in the spring of 2006).

Also included is a 448pp book with complete song texts and English translations by Richard Wigmore, an introduction to the recordings and chronologies of Schubert’s life by Graham Johnson, and comprehensive indexes. Label Hyperion Code CDS4420140 Released October 3, 2005 (recorded between 1987 and 2005) Number of discs 40 ASIN B000B8657S

Here is what Graham Johnson had to say about SK in his introduction

“…a cast rounded off by the young Simon Keenlyside (baritone), destined to become one of the country’s most exciting operatic singers, but devoted, by nature and temperament, to singing lieder…

What the critics say

Andrew Clements for The Guardian, October 28, 2005

Five star rating

Hyperion has been celebrating its 25th birthday this year, and among the releases that have marked the occasion, the issue of its Schubert song edition in a single budget-price box is by far the most significant. Of all the projects that Hyperion’s late founder Ted Perry initiated, it was his decision to record all the Schubert songs, a plan originally suggested by the accompanist Graham Johnson, that was the strongest indication of the label’s seriousness. The series began in 1987, and was completed only this year with the three discs of songs (81 altogether) by Schubert’s friends and contemporaries, which are issued for the first time. Coincidentally the 18-year time-span of the recordings is precisely the same as that occupied by songwriting in Schubert’s own life.

This mammoth release is both more and less than a straightforward boxing of the original releases. When they first appeared, the songs were grouped thematically, arranged by Johnson, who is the pianist on all the discs, in recital groupings either by the nature of the songs, their subject matter or the poets they set. But all the tracks have been remastered for the new set, and rearranged on the discs in chronological order. So the first disc begins with Schubert’s earliest known setting, Lebenstraum, dating from 1810 when he was 13 ,while the 37th is completed with Die Taubenpost, the last addition to the set that was published after the composer’s death in 1828 as Schwanengesang. It makes for fascinating comparisons, and the set comes with texts of all the songs in the same chronological order. What has been lost from the original issues, though, are Johnson’s wonderfully informative (and very extensive) essays on all the songs; they are apparently going to be published as a separate book, both anyone who owns any of the original releases will know what a wonderful resource those essays are and how they complement Johnson’s equally invaluable contributions as accompanist.

In the end, though, the worth of the Schubert edition depends on its completeness – all the solo songs, as well as the part songs and ensembles with piano – and especially on the quality of the performances, and the artists who have contributed does read like a who’s who of modern Lieder singers. Janet Baker made the first recordings in 1987, a recital of settings of Goethe and Schiller, which set the standard for all subsequent contributors. The sopranos include the much missed Lucia Popp and Arleen Auger as well as Elly Ameling, Juliane Banse, Christine Brewer, Felicity Lott and Margaret Price. Among the mezzos are Brigitte Fassbaender and Ann Murray, tenors include Ian Bostridge, Peter Schreier and Anthony Rolfe Johnson, with baritones Gerald Finley, Simon Keenlyside, Thomas Allen and even Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: though he had retired before the series began. Fischer-Dieskau reads the Schöne Müllerin poems that Schubert did not set between Bostridge’s performance of the songcycle. Recorded in 1992, that cycle is in itself one of the best things Bostridge put on disc, just as Matthias Goerne’s account of Die Winterreise, from 1996, seems far fresher and more spontaneous than anything he has done more recently.

This then is an archive of glorious Lieder singing as much as it is a definitive treasury of the greatest Lieder ever composed. Those who have collected the discs as they appeared individually need not worry that they are missing anything – the three bonus discs will be released as a separate set next spring – but anyone else with the remotest interest in Schubert’s songs shouldn’t hesitate any longer.

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