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The German soprano Juliane Banse has sung the Lieder of Brahms, Schubert, Wolf, Ullmann, Strauss, Schumann, Loewe and Berg, earning a reputation for both the quality of her interpretations and the warmth of her timbre. She and her regular partner Martin Helmchen, who has just joined Alpha, have chosen to record Paul Hindemith’s song cycle Das Marienleben, composed in 1923 and revised by the composer in 1948. A bewitching, sometimes disturbing cycle whose texts, taken from the great poet Rainer Maria Rilke, retrace the life of the Virgin Mary. Fifteen poems, fifteen episodes tinged with mysticism and lyricism. They proved to be the ideal inspiration for Hindemith, whose compositional style here draws on both the power of Wagner’s operas and the subtle nuances of Debussy.
"The Allegretto scherzando [of the Eighth] is delectably light…and Haselbock finds surprising sweetness beneath its mechanical surface. I like, too, how he relishes the playful rhythmic punctuation..."
"This song cycle traces the story of Mary from birth to death. Julian Banse, despite a slight edge to her voice, gets to grips with every word of Rilke's poetry."
BBC Music Magazine
"Helmchen makes total sense of the piano accompaniments too, whether naggingly motoric, fiercely dissonant or neoclassically correct. It is a glorious achievement all round. (Album of the week & Album of the year)"
"Banse’s timbre is occasionally more strident than that of Isokoski or Janowitz, but her identification with Rilke’s text is complete and compelling."
the Sunday Times
"when the performance is as good as Banse and Helmchen’s, there is clearly only one winner, with their recording being the finest of the ones I know. (Album of the year)"
"An unwieldly work of true chamber music that is as fascinating and haunting as it is puzzling and mystifying"