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Schumann: Scenes From Goethe's Faust

Album Summary

>Schumann, Robert : Scenes from Goethe's Faust, for vocal soloists, chorus & orchestra (or piano), WoO 3
Conductor Ensemble
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Notes & Reviews:

Antoni Wit, one of the most highly regarded Polish conductors, here conducts Schumann's immensely moving large-scale cantata, Faust. A number of unforgettable scenes, drawn primarily from the mystical second part of the epic poem, appear here as Schumann creates a sweeping panorama of dramatic episodes centered on the lovers Gretchen and Faust. Wit has recorded many critically acclaimed albums for Naxos, and has been honored with countless awards, including the Diapason d'Or and Grand Prix du Disque de la Nouvelle Académie du Disque, the Cannes Classical Award, and 6 GRAMMY nominations, among many others.

"Wit's new version concedes little or nothing to Harnoncourt except sound - excellent, nevertheless - and improves on his interpretation with less mannered, more natural pacing. The soloists are also fine, especially Jaakko Kortekangas's Faust, reminiscent of Fischer-Dieskau but silkier, and Andrew Gangestad's Mephistopheles... the playing is excellent." -BBC Music Magazine

"Conductor, Antoni Wit, sets the scene with an urgent account of the symphonic overture, the first scene for the four main protagonists providing a general idea of the story to unfold. A long aria for Faust’s beloved, Gretchen, finds the forceful voice of German-born soprano, Christiane Libor, but it is the hugely experienced Polish soprano, Iwona Hossa, who becomes the principal soprano in Faust’s Transfiguration. The heroic tenor voice of Daniel Kirch is heard in the major parts of Ariel and Peter Ecstaticus, and as the work progresses the baritone of Jaako Kortekangas carries much of the performance as Faust, Doctor Marianus and Peter Seraphicus, the young Fin possessing a perfectly projected voice of admirable power. Throughout the playing of the Warsaw Orchestra has been an object lesson in refinement, and unlike the recording conducted by Claudio Abbado on Sony, the engineers have produced a realistic concert hall balance between the very diverse performers, the choir naturally situated well to the rear." -David's Review Corner

"the best of the soloists, baritone Jaakko Kortekangas's Faust and Andrew Gangestad's Mephistopheles, are first class. Above all, Antoni Wit is a profoundly idiomatic Schumann conductor, presenting his credentials in a superb account of the overture, and bringing the same dramatic sweep to all the choral numbers that follow." -The Guardian ****

"the quality and musical intelligence of all concerned with this studio album generally match, and often exceed, what more famous names have brough to Schumann's Faust on record...Witt's [sic] sense of architecture and consequent handling of tempo and phrasing bring light and life to Schumann's emotionally supercharged score." -Classic FM Magazine ****

Audiophile Audition
Wit shines... in Part 3... he manages to make this section, which has the quality of pure oratorio rather than oratorio with operatic overtones, register in the company of the other parts. Neither Britten nor Harnoncourt avoid a certain tacked-on quality in Schumann's Part 3, but Wit builds a sense of cumulative spiritual energy that gives muscle to a section that can seem overly prettified. This sense of progression, so hard to achieve in Schumann's collection of seven cherry-picked scenes, makes Wit's version pretty much indispensible... it's really very nice to hear the oratorio straight through, without having to change discs following Part 2, as you have to do with any CD or SACD presentation of this nearly two-hour work.

MusicWeb International
Overall, the present recording may not be up to some of these others, but it does have committed performances by the soloists and excellent orchestral playing to recommend it.

Schumann of course was as fascinated by Faust as every other composer of that age. But in choosing his texts, he avoided the most popular parts of part I and any of the "songs" of the work, concentrating instead on the transfiguration aspects of part II. The result is a very personal and even intimate look at Faust divorced from the whole and representing Schumann's own take on the work, essentially cherry-picked. One has to read Schumann's text carefully to appreciate his attempt at presenting the "Schumann" Faust. Of course the texts will be tough to come by here as they are not offered, except online. Wit and forces again have a firm grasp of the concept and present it very well...

Such a score can only attract the attention of interpreters very motivated here because discogratia of Faust-Szenen , sebbenetutt'altro that copious, includes only recordings average more than commendable. The new edition stopped by Antoni Wit one is the best made for Naxos is among the two or three best ever, at the wheel of Britten (Decca) and Abbado (Sony). The cast, even without big names, has been assembled with extreme care and proves very homogeneous, cohesive and ready to give their best at all times (listen in particular the excellent success of scenes together): the mastery of Wit is especially evident in the choice of times and always appropriate colors and calculation of the weights at the excellent sound that avoids undue imbalances (such as those contained in the total-but-good version of Harnoncourt) between themselves, orchestra and choral masses. A recording of high quality further enhances the pleasure of 'listening.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, Poland (04/21/2009-04/28/2009).


Schumann: Scenes From Goethe's Faust
This two-cd set, which showcases the talents of impressive soloists and Choirs of the Warsaw Philharmonic, brings to light a romantic illustration of the epic work by Goethe. Schumann’s use of Scenes, with orchestra, choirs, and soloists, paints pictures of certain portions of the Faust story, rather than conforming to opera or oratorio structure. It suits the romantic era and permits emotional description in the music rather than fitting a libretto to melody or providing a religious record of Biblical passages. Numerous artists and authors of the Nineteenth Century used the prominent Goethe work for their creative productions. Description of the writing of these Scenes is well-explained in the accompanying booklet, and is helpful during the hearing of this beautiful yet complicated opus. The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir and Boys’ Choir have a pure, cohesive sound, fitting their roles perfectly. The women soloists carry their lines with clear expression and beautiful quality. But the men completely capture the listener’s attention in this performance. The audience waits with expectation to hear each entrance of Baritone Jaakko Kortekangas and the beauty of his exceptional range and expression. Tenor Daniel Kirch is equally impressive with the clear presentation of Ariel and Pater Ecstaticus. The texture of Bass Andrew Gangestad’s voice enhances the drama for his roles. Conductor Antoni Wit utilizes his extensive background and skills to evoke from these performers a dramatic, impressive production of a very large-scale work to display the talents of Robert Schumann. One hearing of “Scenes from Goethe’s Faust” is merely the beginning, an invitation to more education and appreciation of this impressive composition.
Submitted on 03/04/11 by howsweetthesound 
Glimpses of a great work
Something about Goethe’s epic Faust calls out to composers: Gounod, Boito, Berlioz, Mahler, Liszt...and Schumann, who began this choral setting only a dozen years after the great dramatic poem was completed, a score which was to occupy him on and off for ten years more. No attempt was made to represent the entire work--instead, it’s sort of a ”favorite bits” approach and, like Handel’s Messiah, it is assumed you know some of the story going in. Also like Messiah, it’s hard for a single recording to do justice to the vast concept; still, Antoni Wit and his forces do a more than solid job, and really bring out much of the remarkable variety in the music (I keep playing the chorus of angels and boys in Part Three). Some of the male soloists are challenged by the range of their parts, but baritone Jaakko Kortekangas and soprano Iwona Hossa are very fine. No texts, as usual, though you can easily download them from the label’s website, and the booklet gives a synopsis of the original work, including parts that were not set to music.
Submitted on 10/20/11 by Jim D. 
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Works Details

>Schumann, Robert : Scenes from Goethe's Faust, for vocal soloists, chorus & orchestra (or piano), WoO 3
  • Conductor: Antoni Wit
  • Notes: Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, Poland (04/21/2009-04/28/2009)
  • Running Time: 113 min. 49 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Cantata/Oratorio
  • Written: 1844-1853