THOMAS QUASTHOFF Betrachte, meine Seel

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THOMAS QUASTHOFF
Betrachte, meine Seel

Geistliche Arien
Sacred Arias
Sibylla Rubens
Staatsopernchor Dresden
Staatskapelle Dresden
Sebastian Weigle
Int. Release 02 Oct. 2006
1 CD / Download
CD DDD 0289 477 6230 0 GH
Thomas Quasthoff summons the lyrical richness of sacred arias with Betrachte, meine Seel


Liste de titres

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248

Part One - For the first Day of Christmas

Thomas Quasthoff, Staatskapelle Dresden, Sebastian Weigle

Part Three - For the third Day of Christmas

Thomas Quasthoff, Sibylla Rubens, Staatskapelle Dresden, Sebastian Weigle

St. John Passion, BWV 245

Part Two

Thomas Quasthoff, Staatskapelle Dresden, Sebastian Weigle

Thomas Quasthoff, Staatskapelle Dresden, Sebastian Weigle, Staatsopernchor Dresden, SEE: Dresden State Opera Chorus, Matthias Brauer

St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244

Part Two

George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759)
Messiah, HWV 56

Pt. 3

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Die Jahreszeiten - Hob. XXI:3

Der Frühling

Der Winter

The Creation (Die Schöpfung), H.XI/II

Part 1 (Sung in German)

Felix Mendelssohn (1809 - 1847)
Elijah, Op.70

German Text

Part 1

Part 2

Paulus, Op.36

Part 1

Traditional
Thomas Quasthoff, Staatskapelle Dresden, Sebastian Weigle

Durée totale de lecture 1:05:57

Mr. Quasthoff's engagement with the music is total, and his understanding is deep. Indeed, a hallmark of his singing here ¿ as elsewhere ¿ is intelligence. His phrasing is exemplary, and so is his diction. It's a high compliment to say that Mr. Quasthoff is worthy of the music he sings . . . Every now and then, a CD comes along that rises above the rest, assuming a place in a small collection within a greater one, and I believe this is one of those CDs.

Mr. Quasthoff's engagement with the music is total, and his understanding is deep. Indeed, a hallmark of his singing here ¿ as elsewhere ¿ is intelligence. His phrasing is exemplary, and so is his diction. It's a high compliment to say that Mr. Quasthoff is worthy of the music he sings . . . Every now and then, a CD comes along that rises above the rest, assuming a place in a small collection within a greater one, and I believe this is one of those CDs.

. . . this disc is a complete joy on every level. The programme is well planned and . . . is arranged for contrast . . . His (Quasthoff¿s) rich, open and characterful tone, his empathy for word and music alike, and the subtle, well-judged support from the Dresden Orchestra under Sebastian Weigle are only the starting point. You don¿t need to be remotely religious to emerge from listening to this CD feeling cleansed, moved and graceful.

. . . this is a programme which alights most compellingly on human vulnerability, through the singer's instinctive and sympathetic poetics and malleable timbre ¿ as he did in his profoundly moving disc of Bach Cantatas Nos. 56 and 82.

For those with ears to hear, Thomas Quasthoff's BBC Music Magazine Award-winning disc of Bach arias gave several clues as to his spiritual standpoint as an artist. And that has a lot to do with both a sense of exultant humanism, and a tough, earthy and unsparing approach to challenge . . . there's much to enjoy in Quasthoff's jaunty ploughman's song from Haydn's "The Seasons", his majestic invocation to 'Herr Gott, Abrahams' from Mendelssohn's "Elijah" . . .

. . . there is no denying the beauty and coloristic range of his voice . . . A bonus track, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", finds Quasthoff in a relaxed, expansive mood and in glorious voice.

Thomas Quasthoff has one of the most beautiful bass-baritone voices to be heard at present, warm, round and capable of a long legato line. His recent DG DVD of »Winterreise« with Daniel Barenboim, friend and frequent accompanist, was one of the best performances of the Lieder singer's ultimate challenge that I have heard in many years . . .

Mit seiner kerngesunden, vielschichtig flexiblen Stimmkultur dringt er in das Innere der jeweiligen Stücke vor, begibt sich in ihren Dienst und vermittelt sein Credo "Musik ist meine Religion" in dichtem Empfinden und in fundiertem Wissen um den spirituellen Reichtum von Musik in den verschiedensten epochalen Strömungen . . . Mit dem CD-Schlusspunkt "Swing low, sweet chariot" begeht Quasthoff keinen Stilbruch, denn auch hier ist die Musik eine Form von Religion mit einer eigenen aussagekräftigen Botschaft und einer ganz persönlichen Beziehung des Menschen zu Gott. Quasthoffs Fähigkeit zum Perfektionismus dient dem Charakter des Spirituals und mit gedehntem, weichem Südstaaten-Slang lässt er ein passend tiefes Timbre ungekünstelt und entspannt strömen.

Seine Stimme ist rein wie Seide, klar wie Wasser, warm wie ein schöner Sommerregen und so beweglich wie ein leichter Windhauch: Der Bassbariton Thomas Quasthoff zeigt auf der CD "Betrachte, meine Seel" eine facettenreiche Breite seiner Sangeskunst . . . Er interpretiert die Stücke behutsam und anmutig, voll Kraft und Schönheit. Text und Musik erscheinen als eine Einheit, finden sich zu einer gemeinsamen Aussage zusammen.

Was Thomas Quasthoff auch anfaßt, es ist immer bewegend und mitreißend. Als Interpret geistlicher Musik, einer seine Domänen, geht es ihm nicht nur um schönen Gesang, sondern immer um Wahrhaftigkeit des Ausdrucks . . . gültig und überzeugend interpretiert . . . Im Bonustrack erfreut Thomas Quasthoff mit dem Spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot".

Es ist eine wahre Freude, den lautmalerischen Interpretationen des Sängers zu lauschen ¿ etwa seinem schallenden »starker König« und dem »dolce« vorgetragenen »liebsten Heiland«. Nicht weniger berührend sind die zögerliche Stimmung mit der weichen Mischung aus Brust- und Kopfstimme in der titelgebenden Arie aus Bachs Johannes-Passion oder die elegische Arie »Es ist genug! So nimm nun, Herr« aus Mendelssohns »Elias« mit dem todessehnsüchtigen »Es ist genug« in der Reprise. All das zudem bei perfekter Artikulation, die einen das dreisprachige Textbuch von vorne bis hinten vergessen lässt.

Da versetzt sich im titelgebenden Arioso aus Bachs »Johannespassion« die Seele beklommen in Christi Schmerzen; da posaunt die Stimme in Händels »Messias« die Auferstehungsgewißheit heraus; da erstehen Haydns »Jahreszeiten« und »Schöpfung« wie farbige Bilderbögen in plastischer Wort-Ton-Korrespondenz, und Mendelssohns Prophet Elias offenbart seine innere Zerrissenheit. Offenbar geht es Quasthoff nicht um den reinen Schöngesang, sondern um die Wahrheit des Gehalts, den er klangfarblich und ¿gestisch auslotet. Er distanziert sich dabei von Stilpurismus eines asketisch »instrumentalen« Stimmklangs, ohne andererseits die ariosen Linien mit romantischem Pathos zu verkleistern. Stets klingt die Stimme trotz ihrer dunklen Tiefe unbeschwert, sie erreicht zuweilen fast tenorale Helligkeit. Auf diese Weise entspricht Quasthoff dem Typus des intelligenten, vielseitigen Sängers, der heute auch in der historischen Aufführungspraxis dem Spezialisten mit gutem Grund vorgezogen wird.

Es ist eine wahre Freude, den lautmalerischen Interpretationen des Sängers zu lauschen ¿ etwa seinem schallenden »starker König« und dem »dolce« vorgetragenen »liebsten Heiland«. Nicht weniger berührend sind die zögerliche Stimmung mit der weichen Mischung aus Brust- und Kopfstimme in der titelgebenden Arie aus Bachs Johannes-Passion oder die elegische Arie »Es ist genug! So nimm nun, Herr« aus Mendelssohns »Elias« mit dem todessehnsüchtigen »Es ist genug« in der Reprise. All das zudem bei perfekter Artikulation, die einen das dreisprachige Textbuch von vorne bis hinten vergessen lässt.

Quasthoff est . . . convaincant dans les trois extraits des passions de Bach, chantés avec une ferveur spontanée admirable, et surtout dans les Haydn: les états d'âme du paysan Simon (Les Saisons) ou l'émerveillement de l'ange Raphael devant le surgissement des flots (La Création) trouve en Quasthoff un narrateur très premier degré, nature quoi!, ce qui donne une évidence sympathique à cette musique évocatrice.

. . . la douceur, la rondeur, la bonhomie sont tout entière dans le style, qui s'appuie en outre sur une très grande facilité d'émission sur toute la tessiture, ainsi que sur une excellente articulation. Le difficile «Betrachte, meine Seel» . . . tout comme le «Mache dich, mein Herze rein» de la Saint-Matthieu, constituent . . . grand moments du disque . . . au sommet de l'émotion, les déchirants Mendelssohn: «Es ist genug!» (Elias) et «Gott, sei mir gnädig» (Paulus). Quasthoff y délivre un chant absolument nu, sans pathos et effets de manche: une leçon de style . . . Les airs de Simon (Les Saisons) le montrent sans ambiguïté à son tout meilleur: franc, généreux, profond et naïf à la fois. En bonus, Quasthoff propose le spiritual «Sweet low, sweet chariot», interprété de belle et émouvante façon. La Staatskapelle de Dresde, sous la baguette de Sebastian Weigle est particulièrement à son affaire, tour à tour chatoyante et illustrative . . . un disque d'une très haute tenue artistique et infiniment émouvant.
Music Is My Religion

Thomas Quasthoff Sings Sacred Classics

Sacred music has been a cornerstone of the Western tradition for centuries. J.S. Bach declared that “music's only purpose should be for the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit". Haydn habitually wrote at the top of his scores “In nomine Domini" (“In the name of the Lord"), and at the end “Laus Deo" (“Praise to God"), while Handel, on completing the “Hallelujah" Chorus of his oratorio Messiah, is supposed to have said, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself." Mendelssohn's relationship with God was more complicated: born into a Jewish family, he was baptized into the Protestant faith at the age of six.

While these composers had a faith based on reasoned certainty, few contemporary listeners can be as confident in their beliefs. As Thomas Quasthoff says: “In Bach's time, religion was an established part of society in a healthy way. But in the process of industrial development, it became more problematic, in part because people's attitudes to death and dying have changed. Music is my religion, and to feel what these sacred arias are saying, I do not need to subscribe to the composers' belief system."

This collection, then, functions as a statement of musical rather than religious conviction: “We chose pieces which allow me to give voice to what I consider important in singing: colours, expression, beauty. But I wouldn't describe myself as a singer for whom beauty counts above all else. For me the most important thing is the symbiosis between text and music."

Part of what Quasthoff finds in these pieces is not religious certainty, but a quality of uncertainty, even fear. “We are permanently doubting," he suggests, and that quality of doubt is clearly present in the arioso “Betrachte, meine Seel", which occurs at a pivotal moment in Bach's St. John Passion. Its text goes to the heart of the Christian faith, Christ's death and the debt it imposes on believers: “Consider, my soul, with anxious joy . . . that your highest prize issues from Jesus' sorrow, how for you heavenly flowers blossom from the thorns that pierce him."

Both the St. John Passion and the St. Matthew Passion were written for performance in Leipzig, where in 1723 Bach had been installed as Cantor of St. Thomas's Church. The texts of Bach's Passion settings provide a series of dramatic perspectives on Christ's fate. The St. John Passion had its first performance on Good Friday, 1724 (it underwent several revisions over the following 15 years); the St. Matthew Passion followed, in either 1727 or 1729.

Bach's Christmas Oratorio derives from secular, occasional cantatas composed for the family of the Elector of Saxony. He conceived it in six linked parts, to be performed during separate services, beginning on Christmas Day and ending with the Feast of Epiphany (6 January); the first performances took place in 1734-35. We hear the bass aria “Grosser Herr, o starker König", from Part I, and the enchanting duet “Herr, dein Mitleid, dein Erbarmen", from Part III - note the pair of oboes d'amore, new in Bach's day, for which he seems to have had a particular fondness.

Arriving in London in 1710, Handel soon became the city's favourite opera composer. By the 1730s, however, the English public's appetite for Handelian opera had dwindled. The composer, never one to stand still, simply changed his aesthetic tack, turning his attention to the series of English-language oratorios which occupied him for the rest of his life.
The greatest of these is Messiah, written in response to a request in 1741 from the Lord Lieutenant of Dublin. Handel's friend Charles Jennens compiled the text from both Old and New Testaments, focussing on passages which established Christ as mankind's redeemer. The aria “The trumpet shall sound" comes towards the end of Messiah, and prophesies the victory over death to be achieved through Christ.

After Handel's death in 1759, his oratorios, often in performances on a vast scale, became a fixture of English musical life. When Haydn visited London in 1791, he attended a Handel festival in Westminster Abbey in which over 1000 performers took part. Immensely moved (Handel “is the master of us all" he is supposed to have exclaimed), he began to think of returning to the oratorio form he had explored in Il ritorno di Tobia in 1784.
He acquired an English-language libretto, originally intended for Handel, on the theme of the Creation. Back in Vienna, he set the libretto in German as Die Schöpfung. The text brings together passages from the Book of Genesis with sections of Milton's Paradise Lost; Haydn's setting is full of colourful musical imagery, as in the aria “Rollend in schäumenden Wellen" (“Rolling in foaming billows"), which depicts the turbulent separation of water from land as God goes about His Creation.

Die Schöpfung was an immediate success at its Viennese premiere in 1798; for a sequel, Haydn again turned to the English language. The Seasons by Scottish poet James Thomson (1700-1748) was an influential pastoral poem that, in detailing God's bounty season by season, made an ideal counterpart to Die Schöpfung. Haydn once again had the poem translated into German; Die Jahreszeiten had its first performance in Vienna in 1801.

Where Die Schöpfung invites us to contemplate God's work as awe-inspiring, Die Jahreszeiten is more down-to-earth. There are three “characters": Simon, a farmer; his daughter Jane; and Lucas, a callow peasant. Thomas Quasthoff takes the role of Simon, the jolly ploughman in the aria “Schon eilet froh der Ackermann" (the melody makes rusticated reference to Haydn's “Surprise" Symphony), the righteous moralist in “Erblicke hier, betörter Mensch".

In Berlin in 1829 Mendelssohn mounted a centenary performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, which had not been heard since Bach's death in 1750. This single performance, attended by 1000 people, re-established Bach as a central figure in European classical music. Weeks later, Mendelssohn, like Handel and Haydn before him, travelled to England. Like them, he found an enthusiastic audience there: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were among his admirers. In years to come, Victorian England would take his music, particularly his oratorios Elijah (Elias) and St. Paul (Paulus), to its heart.

St. Paul was the first to be written, in 1836, and was composed in conscious emulation of Bach and Handel. Its narrative derives from the Acts of the Apostles, its central drama revolving around Paul's conversion to Christianity: something to which Mendelssohn responded in a highly personal manner. The sombre bass aria “Gott, sei mir gnädig", with its mournful bassoon accompaniment, pleads for God's mercy on a penitent sinner.

A year after its Düsseldorf premiere, St. Paul was warmly received at the Birmingham Festival. While in England, Mendelssohn contemplated a further oratorio, based on the Old Testament story of the prophet Elijah. The plan came to fruition some years later, when the Birmingham Festival commissioned him “to provide a new oratorio, or other music". He composed Elijah to a German libretto, which was then translated into English for the Birmingham premiere in 1846.

Nick Kimberley
7/2006