Soprano Rachel Harnisch

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CD review

Jürgen Kersting: Inalienable heritage

Music critic Jürgen Kersting reviews the new CD with Paul Hindemith's Marienleben by Rachel Harnisch and Jan Philip Schulze.

The vocal performance leaves nothing to be desired. Harnisch's voice, an expansive lyrical soprano, has tonal substance in the deep position and luminosity in the colorfully changing height. Excellent legato: It embeds the words, carefully articulating, in the dynamically patterned sound. She has an excellent partner in Jan Philip Schulze. The sound is, to my taste, a bit too reverberant. The songs are immersed in a kind of sfumato, so rather soft drawn. The texts must, as usual at Naxos, be accessed on the Internet.

That was not easy to do ", wrote Paul Hindemith in his catalog raisonné about the work on the first version of Das Marienleben to poems by Rainer Maria Rilke (1922/23). At the same time he was proud of "the best" he had ever done. The same view was made by Glenn Gould, who spoke of the "greatest song cycle ever composed", but which the composer worked on over and over again in the following decades in order to extract the listener, as he wrote, from the "somewhat shameful role of the mere music consumer" those of the "Compassionate, Understanding". With this he hid (or exculpated?) The change of his gaze on Rilke's poetry, which in turn was inspired by the portrayals of Mary by Titian, Tintoretto, EI Greco, Poussain, and others. According to Rilke, who was brought up in strict Catholicism, Maria, as Rilke literature calls it, meant an "inalienable heir," an earthly woman who experiences pain and pleasure.

On the other hand, the young Hindemith probably understood the cycle as "one of Rilke's most sublime parodies of figures in the history of Christian salvation", whose allusions and ambiguities he appealed to provocatively. He cautiously softened all these innuendi for the next 25 years. The equally provocative Glenn Gould mocked, citing Arnold Schoenberg, on the "antiquated New Look" of the second version (fascinating to the so pages long chapter of Siglind Bruhn in their study "The Vocal Music Obstacles").

How captivating and sensible it would have been if the revenge coming from the Swiss Valais! Harnisch, who recorded under Claudio Abbado the "Stabat Mater" by Pergolesi and the Marzelline in "Fidelio", could have recorded both versions like Judith Kellock - and not only the more accessible second one, which was shot in photographs by Erna Berger, Gundula fanowitz, Soile Isokoski, Ruth Ziesak and others are present. The danger described by Hindemith in his preface that the singer might succumb to the stronger emotionality of the second version, knows revenge! To remove armor wisely. Her portrayal is characterized by subtle differentiations of emotionality, as when the third song ("Annunciation of Mary") tells of the intensity of both eyes (Mary and the Angel): "... only she and he; Look and look, eye and eye candy, nowhere else at this point ». In the seventh song - "Nativity" - she finds the tone of humility and sublimity; in the ninth - "From the Marriage to Cana" - that of the slightly vain pride of Mary whether the miracles her son Jesus can do. Shattering when in the tenth song - "Before the Passion" - she cries out in despair for her son, who acts as the savior of humanity but does not show any sympathy for the mother; and heart-moving when she sings after the agony chord opening the eleventh song: "NOW will my misery be full"

Jürgen Kesting