Quite a discovery this hour-long song-cycle by Swiss-born Othmar Schoeck (1886-1957). Elegie (Opus 36) dates from 1922 and consists of twenty-four Lieder, mostly of poems by Nikolaus Lenau with six by Joseph von Eichendorff, for baritone and chamber orchestra. Invariably slow, the settings are eloquent and deeply felt, sometimes expressionist, leaning to the Second Viennese School, and with a hint of sprechgesang, and imaginatively scored. Christian Gerhaher is wholly immersed in the words and music, while Heinz Holliger is a totally sympathetic conductor, drawing sensitive and committed playing from the Basel Chamber Orchestra (fielding the usual woodwinds, if not requiring a bassoon, with horn, divisi strings, piano and percussion).
The recorded sound, from March 2020, is less good, giving the singer a dominant balance which a ‘loud’ transfer only exacerbates; taming the volume, by as much as two-thirds, makes some difference but the reproduction can still be edgy, especially concerning Gerhaher’s fortissimos. This is a real shame given the quality of the music and the excellence of the performance. (Elegie has been recorded four times previously.) The booklet includes German texts and English translations, and credits four producers but no specific engineer. Sony Classical 19439963302.