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Franz Schubert: The Complete Songs
Franz Schubert, piano Graham Johnson
Franz Schubert: The Complete Songs
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Special Interest, Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (7) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (26) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #4
  •  Track Listings (21) - Disc #5
  •  Track Listings (24) - Disc #6
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #7
  •  Track Listings (25) - Disc #8
  •  Track Listings (26) - Disc #9
  •  Track Listings (25) - Disc #10
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #11
  •  Track Listings (21) - Disc #12
  •  Track Listings (25) - Disc #13
  •  Track Listings (27) - Disc #14
  •  Track Listings (26) - Disc #15
  •  Track Listings (26) - Disc #16
  •  Track Listings (27) - Disc #17
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #18
  •  Track Listings (25) - Disc #19
  •  Track Listings (20) - Disc #20
  •  Track Listings (21) - Disc #21
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #22
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #23
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #24


     
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CD Details

All Artists: Franz Schubert, piano Graham Johnson
Title: Franz Schubert: The Complete Songs
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Hyperion UK
Original Release Date: 1/1/2005
Re-Release Date: 11/8/2005
Album Type: Box set, Import
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Special Interest, Classical
Styles: Opera & Classical Vocal, Chamber Music, Historical Periods, Modern, 20th, & 21st Century, Sacred & Religious, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 40
SwapaCD Credits: 40
UPC: 034571142012
 

CD Reviews

Less than the sum of its parts
Tom Lawrence | Cambridge, MA USA | 05/11/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"The recording of all 600-plus of Franz Schubert's songs was a labor of love for Hyperion Records and accompanist Graham Johnson. The project was characterized by a consistent level of top-notch performances by some of the premier Lied singers of our generation. While there might seem an economy in buying this complete 40-disc set, Beware. Inside the box you get 37 CDs of Schubert's songs for piano and voice presented in chronological order of composition, plus three CDs of songs by contemporary composers, often setting the same poems that Schubert used. Also included is a 400-page book of The Complete Song Texts, but here is the rub: the book lacks the liner notes from the individual CD booklets of the series.

Graham Johnson's original commentaries had insights into the genesis of the songs and the technical features fitting music to text. Where you got an exhaustive paragraph (or five) devoted to each song, here you get only a thumbnail biography of each year in Schubert's life followed by the texts of the songs for that year. The print is very small and the English translations are in an italicized font that makes the h's look like b's. Hyperion admits the difficulty of reprinting the original liner notes: "Several university presses have shown interest until they realised the scale of the project. We have worked out that the publication would run to nearly a million words--without the song texts. It would need at least two volumes. So we must see." In the meantime there is John Reed's Schubert Song Companion with commentaries on a majority of these songs.

There is a scholarly benefit to the chronological sequencing of the songs; you can trace Schubert's development from precocious teen to master songcrafter. There is some tediousness in the early material, however. Adrian Thompson tackles a lot of the awkward young works, and generally I would want to skip these when relistening to the set. Another quirk of the chronological presentation is that it divides Winterreise across two CDs. Schubert composed this work in two parts as he discovered Müller's poems, hence there are intervening songs that divide the opus. Frankly, I would have preferred Winterreise on one disc.

It is nice, in one way, that by reordering the series you get a continuously varied lineup of performers; sopranos followed by tenors followed by altos and baritones. If, however, you want to listen to everything recorded by Arleen Auger, her material is scattered across fifteen discs. There is something to be said for the focus of the original CDs--Goethe songs, strophic songs, water songs, night, nature, etc. Schubert had a vast output that lends itself to thematic programming. Graham Johnson himself frames it best in the notes to Volume 1:
"[The lesser-known songs] are, in their own shy way, treasures, but placed together in a large jewel-case, a boxed set, there is a danger that too many of them, one after the other, make a dull effect.... Should they not be displayed a few at a time where the famous items of the collection throw light on, rather than show up, their humbler brothers?"

There are omissions in the box set, not of actual songs but of individual performances. Janet Baker's rendition of "Der Pilgrim" D794 is left out to avoid duplication with Thomas Allen's. Three tracks from Brigitte Fassbaender's solo disc are replaced with takes by other singers. So on for Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Margaret Price and others.

If I had to do it all over again I would invest in each of the individual CDs of the series. If a book of the liner notes is ever published, that will be another chunk of money, diminishing the economy of the box set. For those of you interested in Schubert's chronological development as a song writer--get the original CDs, rip them as MP3s onto your computer, resequence them according to Hyperion's Web site and upload them onto your iPod."
Concur in Full
W. Harwood | Burlington, VT USA | 09/28/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I concur in full with the previous review of this marvelous collection. The liner notes, photos, and additonal information from Graham Johnson in the original individual discs were the best I have ever read. I have about a dozen of them. I was sorely disappointed to find in the big box only a small-print version of the songs, convenient in one place, but without the splendid commentaries. Bring on the bukly reprint!"
Impresses more than it satisfies...
Florestan | Chicago, IL | 04/01/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I found Ryan Morris's 5-star review of this item, "Unless u r a spoiled brat......this is nothing less than a five" deeply flawed. In addition to lacking decorum, ad hominem attacks (to wit: "u r a spoiled brat") portend an argument where appeals to reason succumb to expressions of rapture. So far as I can tell, Ryan Morris's review does just that. I too have listened to the entire series. There is plenty to treasure, but "absolute, total, enjoyment from beginning to end" is a rather exaggerated claim. No one questions Graham Johnson's ardor, nor fails to marvel in the unprecedented scope of Hyperion's Schubert project. But "allowing [one]sself the awe of this project" is no substitute for more objective, detailed engagement with the material it comprises.

Ryan Morris characterizes the omission of Johnson's liner notes both as a "minor quibble" and a "trivial matter." To this I take great exception. Johnson's original liner notes betray the handiwork of a man in almost unprecedented sympathy with the material. The same cannot be said of his playing. His musical limitations as an accompanist are especially evident in the early songs, where Schubert's eventual mastery of the idiom could not be convincingly presaged--the bloated szenen-cum-lieder Vatermorder and Leichenfantasie, for example. In the latter, despite the fact that Thomas Allen's voice is unquestionably kinder on the ear than Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's ever was, his recording does not compare favorably. For D F-D, Gerald Moore's playing is laden with color and lends the performance some needed forward momentum. It communicates in ways that a brave singer battling Schubert's exceptionally cruel tessituras cannot. For Allen, Johnson's playing can most politely be described as sterile. There is nothing especially evocative about it. The piano always sounds like a piano.

Johnson is everywhere praised as a wunderkind accompanist of daunting intellect. I believe it is more accurate to describe Johnson as a wunderkind musicologist who happens to be a competent pianist. Reading Johnson's extensive notes as I listened to the 11 extant volumes of the Schumann song edition served only to confirm this impression. Johnson's notes would have been a tremendous asset to this set. Without them, this set's greatest virtue lies in the opportunity to hear several songs for the very first (and possibly the last?) time. This must be qualified to some extent: some of the rarities heard here came by their fates honestly. Hyperion's decision to re-sequence these songs chronologically was, on the whole, a regrettable one. Tracing the evolution of Schubert's art is not necessarily the best means of developing enduring appreciation for it. I suppose there is something to be said for "mixing" it up singer-wise. Though all of the singers who participated in this project were immensely talented, some were recorded well past their primes and/or saddled with songs poorly suited to their manner of singing. The new sequence tends to smooth the rough spots/let them off the hook. Many lieder fans (this one included) welcome the prospect of their favorite recordings being one-upped by something/someone new. Anyone harboring such an agenda is apt to find this set sorely lacking. With all due respect to Ryan Morris, "sorely lacking" has no place in a 5-star review."