Masters of the Art Song

Cecilia Bartoli

The development of the art song in France was slower to present itself until the middle of the nineteenth century. But it was worth the wait. Bizet, Delibes, Viardot, Berlioz and Ravel reigned supreme. Bizet is best known for the opera Carmen, Delibes for his ballet music, Berlioz for his Symphonie Fantatique, and Ravel for his Bolero and other symphonic works. Only Debussy is missing from this recording. The themes are the same as songs of the Romantic Era, love and nature. The insert with the CD gives background information on the extraordinary mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli. Since this recording was made, she has developed into one of the great mezzo-sopranos. In addition, the insert contains the French lyrics with English translations.

Gustav Mahler

Mahler, Gustav -1860-1911 (Vienna, Austria.) Mahler’s professional career began as a conductor (with great acclaim) of opera and evolved to include symphonic works. His own symphonic compositions utilize large orchestras. His compositions can be emotionally overwhelming, but almost always spiritually rewarding…”These songs focus on a deep love of nature, the futility and beauty of life and, invariably, our mortality. The six songs of the work are shared between a tenor and a mezzo, and range in mood and energy from the intoxication of a drunkard, the pleasures of youth, to the unparalleled and perhaps most perfectly scored single piece of music ever written, Der Abscheid, 'the farewell' - the requiem-esque finale to the song cycle”…Benjamin Seldon(amazon). Mahler quotation - "I don't choose what I compose. It chooses me."

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Christoph Eschenbach, piano

This video recording of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Schubert's song cycle "The Miller's Beautiful Daughter" is breathtaking. Fischer-Dieskau can be credited with the revival of German lieder in the 20th century as well as other lied composers. He has recorded all six hundred-plus songs of Schubert, and complete songs of other German composers. This astonishing lyric baritone's career spaned over forty years. This DVD presents lieder as was performed during Schubert's life. This performance is in a small concert hall--more intimate than it was performed in Schubert's time frame. One outstanding thing that is immediately noticed is his perfect enunciation. One feature utilized in this song cycle is almost one half of the songs are "strophic" in construction. That is, like hymns, with the music repeated with new text for each of the verses. Schubert quotation - "O Mozart, immortal Mozart, how many, how infinitely many inspiring suggestions of a finer, better life you have left in our souls!"

Robert Schumann

The year 1840 has been labeled as his "year of song", which includes this song cycle, as well as three more song cycles, two "Liederkries's," and "Dicherliebe". "Frauenliebe und Leben"(A Women's Life and Love)depicts different periods in a women's life: love; marriage; child birth; and sudden death of her husband. This is quite prophetic, as it seems to be a mirror of what happened between his love and life with his wife, Clara. There are many other independent songs including one of his minor song cycles titled "Funf Lieder." The CD has a pamphlet with German to English translations. Mezzo-Soprano Anne Sofie von Otter's exquisite and dazzling interpretation of these songs are unparalleled. Schumann quotation - "The painter turns a poem into a painting. The musician sets a picture to music."

Robert Schumann

Schumann was one of the great composers of the Romantic (1800s) music era. His career as a pianist was dashed by an injury to his left hand. In spite of this setback, he continued as a composer and is known today for his piano compositions and his lieder. He also started a highly-regarded music journal and served as its editor. His total output of lieder exceeds 150 just in the year of 1840. His affair and marriage to the famous pianist, Clara Wieck, is one of the great love stories in music. Of these three song cycles, Dichterliebe(Poet's Love), is considered by many as his best, with love, both the wonder of love and love lost are the primary themes of this song cycle. The singer, Peter Schreier, is a highly respected interpreter of German lieder. Details of his professional background are included in the CD booklet. Unfortunately, the text is not in the CD's insert booklet. Schumann quotation - "It is music's lofty mission to shed light on the depths of the human heart."

Aaron Copland

This tall, slender man is considered by many to be the greatest American composer of the 20th century. His most famous work is about two minutes long - "Fanfare for the Common Man." His most notable compositions are the music for the ballets "Billy the Kid", "Rodeo", and "Appalachian Spring", the last for which he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. He also received an Academy Award for the music he wrote for the film "The Heiress." "Long Time Ago" is what could be called art songs of the twentieth century. The 1st and 2nd sections are beautifully orchestrated versions of folk songs. In the "Eight Poems of Emily Dickinson", Copland has captured the essence of her poems. Both American soloists, Thomas Hampson, baritone, and Dawn Upshaw, soprano,are both among the finest singers in the world. Copland quotation - "To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable."

Sumi Jo

This eclectic collection of prayers, are each unique and different as snowflakes. Many differences of styles are displayed from the sixteenth century well into the twentieth century. These “art songs” are varied in their use of languages: Hebrew, German, Latin, French, and English. Accompaniments range from full
orchestra to one using just the piano. The soprano, Sumi Jo comes to the world of singing from Seoul, South Korea. At the age of twenty-one she left her home to study in Italy. After winning numerous competitions, she made her operatic debut in 1986. The CD includes generous background about the singer, the music and includes translations to English

Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, and Joseph Marx

These "love songs" of the late Romantic era in music are exquisite in their perfection. The integration of the music with the text is complete. In the CD insert are one sentence descriptions of each song. Full text may be found at or

Franz Schubert

This recording of Schubert's lieder contains a number of his finest. "Die Forelle"(The Trout) is a lighthearted tale about the struggle between a fish and his arch enemy, the fisherman. The "Erlkonig" is probably the most famous of his songs. This frightening tale of Death (Erlkonig) tempting a young child to leave the arms of his father. The scene takes place at night while riding on horseback. There are three characters in this song, with the singer using his voice in three different ways. The horse galloping throughout the song can be heard in the piano part. The text for "An die Music" was written by Franz von Schober, a personal friend of Schubert. He dedicated this ode offering thanks to music for illuminating his hours of sadness, transporting him to a better world with a promise a better world to come.

"Nacht und Traume," (Night and Dreams) is dedicated to night, the peace and rest it brings is another of Schubert's best known songs. Ian Bostridge, born on Christmas Day, 1964, has become an internationally known tenor, well known in both the fields of opera as well as his song recitals. This CD recording has background information about Bostridge and Schubert. It also has the songs' text translated from German to English. Schubert quotatiom - "When I wished to sing of love, it turned to sorrow. And when I wished to sing of sorrow, it was transformed for me into love."

Franz Schubert

"Schubert's last songs look death in the face...the settings in this song-cycle of poems by Rellstab, Heine and Seidl were written in the year of Schubert's death, and published posthumously under the title 'Swansong,' so it is appropriate that they should be so obsessively concerned with death, exile, yearning, loss, the passage of time, the evanescence of humanity in the face of undying nature. These are songs in a minor key, as simple and pared back and immense as a Beckett drama, all pretence and flourish abandoned in the face of final truths. Even seemingly jaunty tunes, such as 'Farewell' or 'The Fishermaiden', have a melancholy undertow. The Heine settings especially have a Gothic feel, with their narratives about wanderers, dead lovers, abandoned houses, infernal sufferers and doubles, as in the clanging doom of 'the Doppelganger.'" --Darragh O'Donoghue