Move MCD 472
Reviewed by Inge Southcott, September 1st, 2014
Elena Xanthoudakis (soprano), her brother Jason Xanthoudakis (clarinet) and Clemens Leske (piano) are the three outstanding musicians of Trio Kroma. They have produced this excellent disc of rarely performed Romantic pieces for soprano, clarinet and piano. I suspect the only work that most listeners would recognise is the Schubert late concert aria, Der Hirt auf dem Felsen – the other 11 songs are from lesser known Romantic composers such as Andreas Späth, Heinrich Proch, Johann Sobeck, Conradin Kreutzer, Johan Baptist Wenzel Kalliwoda, Peter Joseph von Lindpainter and Franz Lachner. Of these, Sobeck, Kreutzer and Späth were all fine clarinettists themselves and they knew how to match the voice in virtuosity and to reflect the texts of the songs with their writing for the instrument. Two of the tracks are premiere recordings: Die gefangene Nachtigall (Proch) and Der Hirt und das Meerweib (Lindtpaintner). These pieces are well worth listening to and all are brilliantly played by Trio Kroma. Elena’s voice is world class – from her first note I just wanted to hear more!
Technical improvements made to the clarinet during the nineteenth century and various outstanding clarinettists stimulated composers to write more pieces exploiting its extended range and timbre. As a choice of obligato instrument with voice, it now often replaced the usual flute or oboe. There is no doubt that Schubert’s masterpiece, Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, raised its status and influenced those who followed to write for the soprano, piano and clarinet combination. His friend, Franz Lachner, for example, used it very successfully in the first two songs from his Frauenlebe und Leben which are included on the disc. With the current plethora of discs of Baroque music available, a disc of Romantic rarities is unusual and personally I relished a return to the period of lush extended melodies using the full range of the voice and clarinet. The poems are the usual fare for this period- the pain of homesickness, shepherds and milkmaids suffering the loss of their true loves, a mermaid luring a simple shepherd to his doom, songs extolling the beauties of the alps and nature etc. The cd notes are comprehensive and interesting and translations for all the songs are included. For a taster of one of the Lachner songs, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paXroj1o3VI .
From the beginning I was blown away by Elena’s glorious voice and her superb singing. It is no wonder she has won innumerable major international prizes. You can hear her live performance with Pinchgut Opera of “Al tuo seno fortunato” from L’Anima del filosofo at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpC88GoLpK8). The audience sound very excited. One hopes we will hear more of her live here in Australia. Her brother Jason Zanthoudakis, also has a swag of prizes under his belt and regularly performs with all the major Australian orchestras. Clemens Leske is masterful as always – many of the works demand a virtuosic technique such as his. His playing underpins the other two with strength and flair. My only reservation about this disc was that it lacked variety – but of course this is hardly a fair criticism as they set out to present pieces of a certain genre from the same period! I just wanted to hear Elena singing other repertoire and fortunately there is plenty of her on YouTube to explore! Sopranos would be interested to familiarise themselves with these works and perhaps we will hear some of them on the concert platform rather than the Schubert as a result of this disc’s release. For me the Schubert is still the pinnacle of this genre but the others certainly deserve more concert airings.
A highly recommended disc.