Franz Schubert: Vocal Duets, Trios and Quartets
Hector Berlioz: Requiem, op.5

Media Review / Listening Diary 2013-02-17

2013-02-17 — Original posting (on Blogger)
2014-11-08 — Re-posting as is (WordPress)
2016-07-11 — Brushed up for better readability

Table of Contents

Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828): Vocal Duets, Trios and Quartets

Schubert: Vocal Duets/Trios/Quartets, Ameling/Baker/Schreier/Laubenthal/Fischer-Dieskau, CD cover

Franz Schubert: Vocal Duets, Trios and Quartets

Elly Ameling, Janet Baker, Peter Schreier, Horst R. Laubenthal, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gerald Moore, RIAS Kammerchor

Brilliant Classics 94082 (2 CDs, stereo); ℗ 1973 / © 2010

Schubert: Vocal Duets/Trios/Quartets, Ameling/Baker/Schreier/Laubenthal/Fischer-Dieskau, EAN-13 barcode
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Are you aiming at getting hold of “the entire Schubert” or “all Schubert Lieder”? Then you should not miss this set of CDs with the vocal duets, trios (Terzette) and quartets. It contains little gems such as the trios “Die Advokaten” (op.74, D.37) and “Der Hochzeitsbraten” (op.104, D.930), or the duets “Cronnan”, D.282 (a very interesting piece with very unusual harmonies!), “Selma und Selmar”(D.286), “Hektors Abschied” (D.312), or “Hermann und Thusnelda” (D.322). The pieces on these CDs (9 duets, 7 trios, 9 quartets) are very rarely performed, and there aren’t many recordings available.

Comments on the Recording

As for the interpretation: I particularly like the male voices (Peter Schreier, Horst R. Laubenthal, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau) and of course Gerald Moore‘s piano accompaniment. These artists were at the height of their abilities, their performance is impeccable. Many of the duets with Dame Janet Baker and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau are OK, if not very nice. Unfortunately, in some of the pieces, both Elly Ameling and Janet Baker use a very strong, often nervous vibrato that I find hard to listen to. That is my main criticism in this recording: for the 40 years of its age, the recording technique is very reasonable.

Hector Berlioz (1803 – 1869): Requiem (Grande messe des morts), op.5

Berlioz: Requiem op.5, Ozawa, CD cover

Hector Berlioz: Requiem, op.5

Seijii Ozawa, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Festival Chorus

RCA Victor / BMG Music 09026-62544-2 (CD, stereo); ℗ / © 1994

Berlioz: Requiem op.5, Ozawa, UPC-A barcode
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This recording was “recorded in concert at Symphony Hall, Boston, October 1993”. The term “live recording” does not appear: I assume it was made from recordings from several concerts (to eliminate coughing or other mishaps). Not that this really matters: from its nature, one can still consider it a live performance. I don’t have a recording to compare this with, so I’ll just add some brief, general comments here:

Comments on the Recording

I like Seiji Ozawa‘s conducting, his tempi, and the orchestra is mostly flawless, apart from some minor, almost inevitable coordination issues between the brass groups in the Tuba mirum. This composition, though, lives mostly through the chorus: it requires a huge choir to cope with the large instrumental setting. Overall, the performance of the choir is quite impressive, particularly the male voices. Also the female voices are mostly OK. One exception: for my taste, some of the high passages (especially in the Sanctus) sound a bit thin and “heady”, as if the choir was dominated by very young singers (which I don’t think is the case).


The piece is very demanding on the choir, reaching up to B for both sopranos and tenors. My main (minor) criticism is with the diction. This may also be due to a limitation in the recording technique and/or in the acoustics. One could argue that the liturgic text of the requiem is commonplace. Still, as a listener I’d like to “ea ore dan u owls” (“hear more than just vowels”)! In the Sanctus, the tenor Vinson Cole joins the choir. That tenor is good (though he is not James King…), but for me his vibrato is slightly heavy, and some of his pronunciation is a bit odd, often darkening the vowels.

Most importantly, though: the music is fantastic, a feast to listen to! One will easily find similarities between this composition (completed in 1837) and Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem (finished in 1874). The latter to me is more operatic, though; but Berlioz’ Requiem is certainly dramatic and theatrical, too, and well worth listening to!

This is my only recording of Berlioz’ Requiem — a detailed comparison of various recordings is found here (in German).

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