Songs from Theresienstadt and
the time before that

(Ars Production 2003)

Frieder Anders, baritone Stella Goldberg, piano

It presents the first joint CD from 2003 of songs by Jewish composers Pavel Haas, Hans Krása and Viktor Ullmann, who were interned in Theresienstadt and murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.

“Haas, Krása and Ullmann present themselves with quite different profiles – from neo-romantic to quasi-dodecaphonic. The high, pleasantly timbred baritone Frieder Anders interprets them in a plain, referential manner. This fits not badly with the gesture of “Chinese politeness” by which a considerable part of the songs based on Far Eastern poetry is characterized. Especially appealing: the sovereign pianist Stella Goldberg.” (Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich, FR 11.12.03)

“Anders subtle word-song design makes the rendition of Ullmann’s sonorous, lively music of the songs after C.F.Meyer a special listening experience. He expresses with clarity the mixture of optimistic elements and restrained tonal language characteristic of the…four songs after translated poems from Haas’ Tang Dynasty in a touching manner. And where his voice unfolds freely and deliberately, his performance gains poetic power. Stella Goldberg supports the baritone with clear, present playing…” (Prager Zeitung online, 10/1/03)

“Frankfurt baritone Frieder Anders takes on this important music, which is absolutely worth preserving, together with Russian-born pianist Stella Goldberg. He has a rather narrow, beautiful voice, whose use in the careful interpretation of the sometimes fragile songs sometimes seems too restrained, too controlled. Stella Goldberg is a sovereign and powerful accompanist whose playing, on a high technical level, reveals artistic potency…The recording’s clear strengths, however, lie in the choice of tempi, which can be described as very happy and excellently graduated.” (, 19.05.04)

Much of the suite is stubbornly unlyrical and discordant, which makes listening unruly and has undoubtedly contributed to the disproportionately small number of recordings. In this respect, the decision of Frankfurt singer Frieder Anders and pianist Stella Goldberg, who has worked with him for ten years, to produce their first Shostakovich recording precisely with this work must be considered courageous. They can easily hold their own alongside the two other versions available, namely a recording with bass Fyodor Kuznetsov with Yuri Serov at the piano (Delos DE 3317; reviewed in DSCH No. 23) and the recently reissued 1977 recital by baritone John Shirley-Quirk with pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy (in the 5-CD edition of vocal works on Decca, 4757441).

Anders has a warm, open voice and chooses a reverent tone almost throughout the Michelangelo Suite. The more raspy-voiced Kuznetsov prefers a more emotive, dramatic approach, while Shirley-Quirk is often cooler. In Der Morgen, for example, Anders communicates Michelangelo’s almost religious reverence for the femininity of those lying beside him; by contrast, Kuznetsov expresses youthful expectancy, while Shirley-Quirk’s expansive treatment of the same song lacks urgency. In the heartbreaking Madrigal Separation, Anders strikes the most pleading tone, the only one to give the word ‘Madonna’ an accent of deep reverence. Although he does not express the mockery that Kuznetsov and Shirley-Quirk give to the word ‘snooty’ in No.7 (To the Banished) in an almost caustic way, he hits exactly the tone of righteous passion in the preceding song, in which he takes sides with Dante.

Goldberg, a former piano student of Lev Oborin, provides a strong existential counterpoint to Anders’ reverent tone. Her performance differs most from the other two pianists in the first sonnet, Truth. On Coviello Classics, this cutting indictment of the injustice of power lasts 4:41, with Goldberg emphasizing the agogic discomfort of the piano accompaniment. On Delos, Serov plays much more fluidly, taking 30 seconds less; Ashkenazy opts for a more regular pace despite the remarkably slow tempo of the six-minute Decca recording. At the beginning of Schaffen, Goldberg appropriately depicts the rhythmic randomness of the sculptor’s hammer blows. At most, I would have reason to criticize her for her slight restraint in the fifth piece, Zorn, in which Serov brings out the fury and Ashkenazy almost quivers with anger, causing the rhythm to just wobble. Perhaps some listeners will miss the eerie immobility Ashkenazy portrays in The Night – here he and Shirley-Quirk linger in such a way that they take 17 seconds longer than Goldberg and Anders (4:29), an emotionally significant difference (Kuznetsov and Serov cover the same distance in 3:55 and make an almost casual impression). Yet Goldberg offers a thoroughly respectable alternative here, giving the piece a warmer tone than her competitors and thereby making this movement a welcome oasis of calm within the suite (…)

Coviello Classics has recorded the artists with a comforting reverb without sacrificing the necessary clarity. English and German translations are provided for all texts, but unfortunately the original Russian texts have not been included, which in the case of the Michelangelo Suite are offered in transliterated form on Delos and on Decca. Both Coviello and Decca use the same English translation by Sarah and Eric Walter White, which is superior in every way to Sergey Suslov’s unidiomatic version. Anders himself has written the exquisite program booklet, which testifies to wide-ranging expertise – and includes for each of the Michelangelo poems a brief explanation of its original context, an addition that is missing from Delos and Decca and here can only enhance the value of an already very handsome production.”

Mark Roberts (Eng: Martin Walker)

DSCH JOURNAL No. 27 – July 2007

World Poetry in Russian Music

(Coviello 2006)

D.Shostakovich, Suite on words by Michelangelo Buonarotti, op. 145;
D.Kabalevsky: Four Shakespeare Sonnets No.2, 4, 5 and 7 from Ten Shakespeare Sonnets, op. 52;
Gawrilin: Four Heine Songs, Nos. 1, 4, Interludium, 8 and 11 from Deutsche Hefte II[a].