Schneider: Christus der Meister - Lüken
Ars Produktion ARS 38 360 (2 discs)
Classical - Vocal
Schneider: Christus der Meister
Dorothea Brandt (soprano)
Rena Kleifeld (alto)
Fabian Strotmann (tenor)
Richard Logiewa Stojanovic (bass)
Alexander Lüken (conductor)
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - July 12, 2023
‘Christus der Meister’ is the second of a series of three oratorios by the German composer Friedrich Schneider. Despite a largely different cast of soloists, it is as good as the first Schneider: Christus das Kind - Lüken which I had the privilege of reviewing in September last year.
Schneider is a well-known German name and possibly as common as Smith or Jones in the Anglo-Saxon world, but the composer Schneider is not. One may wonder why because his compositional output is quite extensive with, among others, seven piano concerti and no less than 23 symphonies, all in the romantic style, whilst -Germany’s vocal tradition obliging- 7 operas, 4 masses, 25 cantatas, and six oratorios may be added. Of course, quantity is not necessarily a guarantee of quality, but if you have heard ‘Christus das Kind’, you will know better. This follow-on release proves it.
Schneider’s oratorios are in a format made famous by Haydn’s ‘Die Schöpfung’ of which ARS Produktion issued some 10 years ago a much-hailed version: Haydn: Die Schöpfung - Weil. In comparison, I was surprised to note that the differences were not as big as some might have expected. On the contrary. ‘Christus der Meister’ is like a ‘trait d'union’ between Haydn and Mendelsohn’s Paulus and Elias. More in general, Schneider’s oeuvre is that of a real musical craftsman built on a multi-faceted background: Kapellmeister in Dassau, organist in Leipzig, pianist (of which it is said that it was he who premiered Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto), and last but not least, Director of a music school he founded in Dassau, in the Eastern part of Germany. And indeed, some, if not most of it has a similar melodious character as Mendelssohn’s, whose grandfather, Moise Mendelssohn, was born in Dassau (What a coincidence!).
I mention all this to underscore the importance of what Alexander Lüken, conducting the Wuppertal Sinfonieorchester, soloists and the Chorale of Barmen-Gemarke, together with the gracious and generous support of Hartmut und Lore Schuler-Stiftung, Caroplast, and not least the Promotion of Art and Culture in the German town of Wuppertal, have done to lift a thoroughly neglected German composer out of oblivion. There is even no reference to him in my ‘Larousse de la Musique’ (edition 1982). What a shame!
As said above, this second release is on par with the first, and I was pleased to note that the beautiful voice of the soprano, Dorothea Brandt, remained part of an excellent vocal cast. And another thing that is not to be undervalued: German texts are best sung by Germans. Moreover, German regional orchestras are usually of a high calibre. And so is this one. For brevity I leave it at that, assuming that when the survey is completed the picture deserves to be painted in full.
In the meantime, I may refer those interested to the liner notes of Dominik Hoïnk and J. Cornelius de Vos, explaining all there is to say about the oratorios and why only three instead of the originally planned four exist. That said, I do hope that the concluding release will soon become available. If only because once completed these recordings will constitute a milestone in the revival of a German composer whose importance may have gone lost in the shadow of Ludwig van Beethoven and other of his contemporary heavyweights.
Comparing the sound with Bruno Weil’s live performance in the Alfred Krupp Saal of the Philharmonie Essen, Lüken & Co is a bit warmer and in line with a demand for wider surround, more spatial. Personally, I like to sit in the hall and not on stage, though others will appreciate that some of the soloists are placed elsewhere in the surround mix.
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.
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