Alpha and the Festival of Aix-en-Provence continue their Young Talents series, in which Laureates of the Académie of the Aix Festival are each accorded an album. The American baritone John Chest enjoys a brilliant career that has already led him to Glyndebourne Festival and the BBC Proms. In partnership with the Brazilian pianist Marcelo Amaral, he presents Die schöne Magelone by Johannes Brahms. Among all the wealth of Lieder that Brahms composed, this is his only real song cycle. Brahms had known these popular tales since his childhood, but it was thanks to Schumann that he discovered the novel published in 1797 by Ludwig Tieck, entitled The Love Story of the Fair Magelone and Count Peter of Provence.
The work is representative of the poetic, idealised reinvention of the Middle Ages so characteristic of German romanticism: stories of star-crossed love, that usually end happily… ‘What strikes the listener most of all is the song cycle’s epic scale – it is a veritable pocket opera, supported by pianistic writing of great complexity,’ writes Timothée Picard in the libretto accompanying this disc – which is illustrated by an original design by Maia Flore, a laurate photographer of the HSBC Foundation: her poetic universe has already featured in the preceding number of the series, Black is the colour (Alpha 384).