This older Bach’s spare textures and bold chromatic effects make him a highly individual voice in this penitential but deeply moving music. Peter Harvey’s bass and Claire Wilkinson’s mezzo shine out from this “choir” of soloists, but Gardiner is the driving force.
Clara Schumann's presence in the history of European music has become firmly fixed in recent years: the many new biographies, editions, recordings and performances of her compositions testimony to her significance and influence. Her songs, not as well known as her works for piano, are among the treasures of her creative work and can take their place with the best of the German Lieder repertoire.
Deutsche Grammophon is lucky in that World War II didn't slow classical recordings in Germany as it did in the United States but stimulated them: It was essential for wartime morale. Thus, if you can get past any repugnance related to these recordings' genesis, there's a huge amount to enjoy. There's a disc of lieder by all the prewar greats (Franz Volker, Tiana Lemnitz, Erna Berger, and Heinrich Schlusnus), a disc of Wagner featuring young Hans Hotter, opera and operetta performances by Berger and Helge Roswaenge, and a disc showing how the German singers gave Italian opera a distinctively Nordic but highly communicative edge. The set is crowned by a complete Winterreise that was recorded by Peter Anders in 1945 (and sounds it): the cultivated tenor's anguished performance embodies a Germany facing the abyss. –David Patrick Stearns