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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
I usually avoid large box sets because they make it difficult to give the individual works the attention they deserve. I couldn't resist this large CD compilation of the complete songs and duets of Brahms. In contrast to Schubert's songs, for example, I haven't known Brahms' songs for long. I have listened to Fischer-Dieskau's six CD recording of many of the Brahms songs Brahms - Lieder together with several other recordings. I wanted to hear more of them. The low price of this set, which consists of 13 CDs. This site also advertises a version of this release with a CD-ROM. This is the version I have. The CD-ROM includes the German texts of the songs, ordinary liner notes, and no biographical infomration on the performers. The CD-ROM set is much more expensive. My advise would be to skip it and purchase the version with out the CD-ROM, if that option is available to you.

In the loveliness of the music, the variety and high quality of the singers and pianists, the sound, and the price, this set offers an excellent survey of Brahms' songs. I had some questions about the manner in which the songs are organized on the disks. But this is a lovely set simply for hearing Brahms's art songs. For purposes of this review, I spent about a week hearing the entire set and becoming absorbed in the music. The better approach may be to hear these songs a little at a time.

These are original CDs rather than reissues. The recordings are from Germany and Austria and date from 2007. They include a group of excellent young singers and pianists, some of whom are familiar to me from other recordings. The performers are not indicated on this site, and I will list them.

Singers:
Christian Elsner - Tenor
Simone Wold - Soprano
Ingeborg Danz - Alto
Michael Volle - Baritone
Stephanie Iranyi - Mezzo-soprano
Letzia Scherrer - Soprano
Franziska Gottwald - Alto
Robert Morvai- Tenor
Lenneke Rutten - Mezzo-soprano
Antonia Bourve - Soprano
Rebekka Stohr - Mezzo soprano
Daniel Sans - Tenor
Michael Nagy - Baritone

Pianists
Burkhard Kehring
Gerold Huber
Helmut Deutsch
Karl-Peter Kammerlander
Ferenc Bognar
Adrian Baianu
Andreas Lucewicz
Hans Adolfsen
Tobias Hartlieb
Ronald Glassl -viola on two songs
Hartmut Volle - narrator in Die Schoene Magelone

Here are some brief comments on the content of the set.

Brahms composed songs throughout his life and they have an intimate, lyrical character not found in his larger compositions. He composed about 200 art songs for solo voice on themes of love, loss, nature, and nostalgia for place. Most of his songs are set to poets little known today, and Brahms' music attempts to capture a single mood rather than to give a musical painting of each word or phrase in the text. Under the circumstances, I did not find the lack of an English translation a major loss. The piano part is integral to Brahms' songs. It is generally simple in character, but rather more intense than in the songs of Schubert. Brahms songs begin with opus 3 no. 1, a work called "Liebestru" and end with the "Four Serious Songs", opus 121. In addition to sets of songs with opus numbers, a substantial number of songs without opus numbers are included in this set.

Brahms wrote only one song-cycle, the infrequently performed "Die Schone Magelone" opus 33 setting 15 poems by Ludwick Tieck on a medieval romance. These songs are lengthy and romantic with a virtuoso piano part. The cycle is usually performed straight through but it is also sometimes done with a spoken narration between each song. The songs themselves do not tell the entire story. The cycle is well done here by Michael Volle and pianist Adrian Baianu. The version with the narration is used, which, for me did not add a great deal to the cycle.

Many of Brahms art songs rely heavily on German folk songs. Brahms also set a substantial quantity of works he denominated as folksongs, and they are included in this set. The best-known of these works is the late collection of Deutsche Volkslieder, WOO 32, performed here by Robert Morvai and Andreas Lucewicz.

Approximately 3 CDs in this collection consist of duets. I had no earlier familiarity with these works, and they tend to be lighter in character than the songs. The CD consisting of soprano and alto duets by Letizia Scherrer and Franziska Gottwald is particularly lovely.

There is a complete set of Brahms' songs available on the CFO label on individual CDs which are substantially more expensive than this set. (The CFO set features pianist Helmut Deutsch who also performs on this Brilliant compilation.) In addition, I learned while writing this review that pianist Graham Johnson is in the process of issuing a complete series of songs on Hyperion similar to his acclaimed Schubert cycle. The first volume features Angelika Kirschlager. Brahms Songs Vol.1 (The Complete Songs Vol.1)

This Brilliant Classics set is a lovely budget-priced version of the Brahms art songs. It will be of most interest to listeners with a passion for art song with its intimately romantic combination of poetry, voice and piano.

Robin Friedman
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I cant really hope to add much to the other very comprehensive review, except perhaps to try and communicate just how much pleasure this set has given me. These were a surprise birthday gift from someone who knew my love of Brahms work in other genres, but who probably did not know that I had no prior acquaintance with art song from the Romantic era. I count a few Britten song cycles as old favourites, and have sampled the exotic delights of songs by the likes of Birtwistle and Ligeti, but nothing really at all of the Romantics in this genre. I've had Schubert's famous songs on my wish-list for years, but still haven't got round to doing anything about it. So, this has been completely new territory for me, not just as repertoire, but also as form and genre. And what a delight it has been.

As there is so much material here, contrary to my usual approach, I did not even consider trying to fix the songs in memory. I rather just let them wash over me, trying to savour the transient moods as best I could, and just be grateful for the impressions I was left with. I played each disc maybe two or three times, for the most part on car journeys, for which the relatively even dynamics makes these particularly suitable. As a measure of the enjoyment I have had from these discs, there was an occasion where I had one of them playing on a long journey with my wife. My wife is one of those who, alas, has yet to acquire the requisite comprehension to enjoy classical vocal styles. She said to me "I don't get it, what are you supposed to be feeling while you are listening to this kind of music"? It was one of those curious moments when a simple question seemed to summon up a mountain of contradictory feelings, all the feelings I had experienced so far on my journey through these discs, mixed with a deep gratitude for the whole experience. For some of us, it is wonderful to reflect from time to time, on the centrality of music to our lives, and to be thankful it is so.

With the variety of performers in the set I came to have a new appreciation of vocal artistry, and I arrived at the realisation that each voice is actually a unique world. Any superficial similarities of register are vastly outweighed by the differences in character, tone, shape and other ineffably abstract, almost geometric, parameters and patterns. To really listen to a voice is to go inside a body like one's own, but different, and penetrate to a heart and mind like one's own, but different, an act of challenging intimacy. Particularly striking for me was the voice of tenor Robert Morvai, featured on discs 9 and 11, who combines a firm heroic quality with a touching vulnerability and tenderness. Also, particularly memorable was disc 7, and the sparkling interplay between soprano Letizia Scherrer and alto Franziska Gottwald.

Then there is old Brahms himself. He doesn't loom particularly large here. Perhaps if I were to listen some more and pay more attention to the piano parts I might be able to discern some more essentially Brahmsian qualities in the music. A pianist used to his style and devices might well have a better chance. If I had been asked to identify the composer without foreknowledge I would have been hard-pressed to give a better guess than someone from the late nineteenth century. But then, it is no bad thing that the ego of the composer should stand aside from time to time and allow himself to become a conduit for a limpid and unaffected beauty.

Another bounteous opportunity for pleasure and discovery made affordably available by the redoubtable Brilliant Classics.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2014
I'm glad with the quick delivery in good condition of this rare item. Cd's are out of collection, but these second hand copies were as new.
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