Romantic Songs – So tief im Abendrot
Arrangements of songs by Schubert, Robert Schumann and Brahms
Eilika Wünsch (soprano)
Ramon Jaffé (violoncello), Prof. Stefan Adelmann (double bass), Bernhard Wünsch (piano)
rec. 2022/2023, Studio Musikhaus am Bielstein, Gleichen/Göttingen, Germany
German and English texts and translations included
Hänssler Classic HC23016 (68)

There are times when one wonders how a record came to be released. 

According to the accompanying notes, the premise for this album would appear to be “a completely new approach to our lieder recital repertoire … in which voice and piano are enhanced by another melody instrument”. Whether this enhancement is either desirable or necessary is a moot point, but I suppose the idea of the cello taking over the second vocal line in the adaptation of duets is one solution to the non-availability of a second singer. The accompanying notes would also seem to suggest that these arrangements improve in some way on the originals, even of the two songs from Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder, which of course were written for full orchestra.  I can assure you they do not.

However, the greatest impediment to enjoyment is not the arrangements themselves but the solo singer. According to the biographical notes, Eilika Wünsch has been active since around 2010, when she worked with Jörg Demus. She would appear to have a fairly extensive discography, though I can’t find a single review on the internet for any of her discs, or for any of her public appearances. We are also told that she has sung the roles of Butterfly, Konstanze, Donna Anna, Violetta, Gilda and the Queen of the Night, about all of which I am faintly incredulous.  The first few notes of the opening song, Nacht und Träume,are sung in a white, vibrato-less tone, but thereafter any single sustained note emerges unfocused and unsteady. She struggles so much with the execution of the notes that any attempt at interpretation is completely absent. I am sorry to be so negative, but I really can’t find anything positive to say about this recital. Listening all the way to the end proved quite a trial, but listen I did, right through to the final song, which is a vocalise arrangement of Schubert’s famous Impromptu, Op.90, no.3. The arrangement takes her well up above the stave, where the sound that emerges is somewhere between a whistle and a theremin and quite unpleasant – to my ears at least. 

This is one of those cases where comparisons are irrelevant. One to be avoided, I’m afraid.

Philip Tsaras

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Schubert: Nacht und Träume
Brahms: Wie Melodien zieht es mir
Reger: Nachts
Schumann: Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär
Brahms: Am Strande
Schumann: In der Nacht
Liszt: O komm im Traum
R Strauss: Im Abendrot
Reger: Abendlied
R Strauss: Beim Schlafengehen
Schumann: Mondnacht
Schubert: Auf dem Strom
Schubert: Impromptu, Op.90 no. 3 (as Vocalise)