Deutsche Volkslieder (Gächinger Kantorei/Rilling)
Folksongs tend to blush unheard until collected and arranged; then they tend to droop and fade, especially when arranged by Brahms for SATB a cappella. His art withers their artlessness; and conversely. Still, it must have been fun to hear the court choir at Detmold imploring permission to enter each other's gardens and pluck the rosebuds. This disc offers all the 14 so-called Volkslieder published in 1864, plus nine more (published 1926-7) of the many others that Brahms sensibly withheld. The Kantorei's attack and intonation are admirable; the singers are well grounded and well drilled. But in other respects these settings have not been tended carefully enough. Some are blown about by gusty fortes and wayward rubato. Others are left lop-sided through vocal imbalance; thus obtrusive tenors obscure the soprano melody of In stiller Nacht. Worst of all, I thought, is the constant crude chopping at the texts. Thus in Ach Gott wie weh the voices explain what they mean by the allegorical flower they've just mentioned: "Das Blümlein, das ich meine". But that flower has in fact already been cut, together with the whole second verse, which renders the words nonsensical (a precedent followed by too many of the English “translations”). Didn't anyone notice, or care? Apparently not; even the marvellous Da unten im Tale has had its last verse amputated. Perhaps these and other crass mutilations were undertaken to avoid boring the singers; but then why not just leave out the whole lot, and avoid boring the audience? At best the Kantorei, in initiating or sanctioning such malpractices, is passing a vote of no confidence in its own performances. Seconded.
The Musical Times, May 1979 (p. 406) © the estate of eric sams