Soprano Rachel Harnisch

Press & Media


«Das Marienleben» mit Rachel Harnisch und Jan Philip Schulze

Hindemith - rediscovered

By Peter Hagmann

It may not have been that sacred. In the poem cycle "The Marian Life" by Rainer Maria Rilke, the young woman may indeed appear an angel, but the glances that pass between the two at this moment say more than the church tradition suggests. No wonder, the carpenter Joseph in the face of obvious consequences - so much that it requires a vigorous intervention by the angel. As a result, the life of Jesus passes in a dense gathering. As Mary takes the corpse of her son after the crucifixion, a tenderness that points to the next poem unfolds; It describes how the Risen One encounters his mother: in a bond whose intimacy no longer requires physical contact.

And as brittle as the prejudice wants, it does not sound that way either. The music that Paul Hindemith invented for the poetry cycle of Rilke breathes its very own sensuality. Certainly, the vocal line is sophisticated, and the piano part does not offer accompaniment of a conventional kind, it embodies clear formal principles - especially in the second version of the setting, the Hindemith 1948, a quarter century after a first transcript of the song cycle has completed. Ostinate progressions, as the Passacaglia expresses, are here to the singing voice, subjects with variations and often unanimous passages. Thus, there is an exchange between the sung and the played, as it is unique in this intensity.

This is exactly what the Swiss soprano Rachel Harnisch and the German pianist Jan Philip Schulze set out in Naxos' recording of Hindemith's "Marienleben" in the version of 1948. Their interaction is conceivably far removed from the idea of a solo-led singing voice and an underpinning piano. Jan Philip Schulze, a highly experienced musician on the field of the art song, makes the piano part supple and beautiful, but above all, he confidently places him in the room, which opens up to hearing at the first encounter.

He can do that because Rachel Harnisch is so keenly aware of the concept of musical partnership. The mature voice of the soprano, who just recently appeared in Berlin in the premiere of Aribert Reimann's latest opera "L'Invisible", exudes so much warmth and fullness that she can easily survive the pianist's pointed contributions - and even more so : that she brings to full advantage the peculiar sensuality of the composition. The singer is just creating, and she does so with emphatic emphasis, audible from the wonderful texts of Rilke, with exquisite diction, but also with such impressive care of the vocal shape that the balance in the duo is given at all times. There is a report of merry Christmas and of a baptized John, who, in his mother's womb, expresses his anticipation. And to discover in this recording is an unmistakable, but in some ways new Hindemith.

Paul Hindemith: The life of the Virgin Mary (version of 1948). Rachel Harnisch (soprano), Jan Philip Schulze (piano). Naxos 8.573423 (1 CD).
Peter Hagmann