German countertenor Andreas Scholl recently released his new album, 'Wanderer' on Decca - a disc of works by Brahms, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert. Although the recording includes repertoire not normally associated with the countertenor voice, Scholl believes 'if the singer’s approach is true, there is no reason why these songs shouldn’t be sung by a countertenor as by a tenor or baritone'. Read Scholl's answers to Gramophone's questions below and hear two excerpts from the disc:
The immediately striking aspect of your new album is that you perform works written for a number of vocal ranges. Can you explain a little about why you decided to do this and the challenges involved?
I’ve been performing the core Baroque and Classical repertoire for nearly 20 years now and I think it is both interesting and important to expand your musical horizons. I’d worked on these pieces with my students and for me it was about embarking on a new journey. As with any repertoire, the challenge you face is to present these pieces with conviction, and to convince the audience to follow you on this journey. If you succeed in this, it is a very rewarding experience.
In Schubert's Death and the Maiden you perform both the girl (as a countertenor) and Death (as a baritone). How did you go about recording this? Did you record all of the countertenor parts first and then readjust your register to record the baritone parts?
I do this in concert too – switch between the head and the chest voice – so it wasn’t new for this recording. The idea is to present ‘characters’ sincerely (not as a circus attraction) and it has a strong effect on an audience, which I’ve experienced firsthand in concert.
How did you choose the works on the album? Were you as interested in linking the works via their text and themes as through their musical styles?
I wanted to do a song album and the foundation for us was the Haydn songs, which I’ve sung for a few years and are obviously outside of the Baroque repertoire. From there we collated a list of about 40 songs from Brahms, Schubert and Mozart and condensed it down to form the track list that is on the album. After this we arranged it in sequence. The motif of ‘Death’ obviously runs through the album but the main selection process was working out which pieces ‘clicked’ with me instantly when I sung them.
Does the album have a particular mood or tone?
The general mood (as with most poetry) is rather sad and gloomy! It’s similar to lots of Elizabethan lute repertoire in that sense.
Do you have a favourite work on the album and why would you choose this?
It’s probably Schubert’s 'Der Jüngling auf dem Hügel' from Vier Lieder, Op 8, No 1. As a singer, I see myself as a storyteller and this is a really beautiful story. The mini chapters within it make it really enjoyable to sing.
Could you explain for me the significance of the album’s title? I know this is taken from Haydn’s The Wanderer, but does the title have a wider significance for you?
Well the significance is two-fold. Firstly I’m leaving my ‘home territory’ with lots of this repertoire and it’s sort of ‘me as wanderer’, journeying through different periods of music. Also, the general life of a musician is the life of a vagabond or a wanderer: you’re not at home a great deal!
You perform with accompanist Tamar Halperin on the disc. How would you describe your working relationship?
Tamar and I are obviously married but it’s a relief that we are able to work together too (this isn’t always guaranteed!). We agree on basic musical ideas, which helps, and our motivation for music making is the same: when I watch Tamar play I see modesty, sincerity and a lack of egotism which I hope I bring to my own performances too. She also has wonderful musical ideas that she proposes. We don’t always agree on everything but it is always an equal exchange, she is not an accompanist that blindly ‘follows’ a singer, we work in collaboration.
Hear an excerpt from Haydn's The Wanderer below:
Hear an excerpt from Schubert's An Mignon below: