Sehnsucht - The Gents

Sehnsucht - The Gents

Channel Classics  CCS SA 30109

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal

Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Sehnsucht; Die Nacht; Ständchen; Grab und Mond; Der Entfernten; Nachtviolen; Nachtstück; Abendstern; An Sylvia
Robert Schumann (1810-1856): Die Lotosblume; Die Rose stand im Thau; Der Träumende See
Hugo Wolf (1860 – 1903): 6 Geistliche Lieder
Julius Röntgen (1855-1932): Hoffnung; Fiesole
Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949): Vor den Türen; Traumlicht

The Gents
Beni Csillag (conductor)
Lenneke Ruiten (soprano)
Thom Janssen (piano)

The Golden Age for Choral Singing

The nineteenth century was a golden age for choral singing. A European chorister looking for a corner in vocal heaven would have been well advised to buy a one-way ticket to Germany or Austria: more specifically, to Berlin, Leipzig, Frankfurt, Cologne, or Vienna. Beginning in 1810, singing clubs, and later on, choral societies, shot up all over this part of the world like mushrooms. You could join a Liedertafel, Liederkranz, or Männersangverein. Carl Friedrich Zelter, Mendelssohn’s teacher and the leader of the Berliner Singverein, was the first person to use the term “Liedertafel” in 1808. The term was used to indicate an informal meeting of poets, composers, and singers who came together to sing German part-songs. In a letter addressed to Goethe, Zelter explained that the 25 members of his Liedertafel were accustomed to sit down at a well-furnished table for a sumptuous dinner followed by an evening of singing. Zelter’s group preferred original works, so freshly composed that the ink was still wet. The best musical contribution was then duly rewarded with a medal, a congratulatory toast, or a laurel wreath. Behind this convivial atmosphere there was a loftier goal: the stimulation and promotion of German poetry and music. A Liedertafel, in other words, could be seen as occupying a place comparable to the Meistersingers’ guild of the middle ages, or the eighteenth-century musical meetings of the Freemasons.

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DSD recording
Reviews (1)

Review by John Miller - February 19, 2010

Having rapidly risen to world class status, The Gents, a young male voice choir from The Netherlands, have also gained a reputation for innovative programming. Here they open a window onto the neglected world of the Nineteenth Century 'singing clubs' and male choruses which were popular in Germany and Austrian cities such as Cologne, Berlin, Munich and Vienna. These clubs prided themselves in tackling new material, and composers such as those featured in this recital were happy to oblige.

Schubert, in particular, wrote a number of part songs for male choirs, some of which he included in his famous "Schubertiads" (evening social gatherings to air his latest compositions for his friends). The first group of his a cappella songs presented here feature the poetic considerations of Night and associated darker aspects of life.The selected three of Schumann's part songs are richly romantic settings concerned with Nature, while Hugo Wolf (who wrote relatively little other than solo lieder) contributes Six Holy Songs to words by Eichendorff with a sumptuous chromaticism stemming from his later career.

Dutch composer Julius Röntgen (1855-1932), a distant relative of Wilhelm Röntgen (who discovered X-Rays) and Richard Strauss are better known for their orchestral music and solo songs, but both were interested in choral writing, especially Strauss. Sadly, his works in this genre are rarely heard, as most of them are technically difficult, but they include some of his greatest masterpieces.

Neatly interpolated in the programme are two solo songs by Schubert, sung by soprano Lenneke Ruiten and excellently accompanied by pianist Thom Janssen. Ruiten has a passion for lieder singing, and she has a perfect voice for this art-form, not heavily operatic but fresh, sweet and flexible, with a very distinctive character. I hope to hear more of her solo work on Channel Classics in the future. Soprano and pianist also join the chorus in several items, and the whole recital is rounded off with a delightful version of the bubbly 'Who is Sylvia?' from Schubert, in an arrangement by Goff Richards for The King's Singers.

Throughout, The Gentlemen, conducted by Béni Csillag, display a smoothly sonorous and seemingly effortless ensemble and flowing lines, with their complement of 5 Countertenors, 5 Tenors, 4 Baritones and 4 Basses. Amongst the basses are some deeply resonant voices, which add a frisson when they reach the lower part of the stave in several of the songs. The Gentlemen's pure pleasure in singing is evident in every bar. Channel have given them a recording of startling realism in lovely voice-friendly acoustics, from two locations which are hardly distinguishable.

Channel's Digipak is attractively designed, with a useful note on the historical context of the Männersingverein, printed in a user-friendly type-size. However, the texts are provided in German only. Perhaps Channel will be able to put an English translation on their website.

This is a most entertaining and superbly performed excursion into some little traversed vocal music, and I highly recommend it.

Copyright © 2010 John Miller and


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