Desert island discs

Given an uninhabited, non-tropical island with an endless supply of processed tobacco, coffee and freshly baked bread, the following short list of audio recordings would complete my experience.

Ensemble Venance Fortunat - Stirps Jesse (Fulbert de Chartres)

Ensemble Venance Fortunat - Stirps Jesse Quantum QM 6899, 12.16.42 – 1989, France

This 1989 recording by Ensemble Venance Fortunat, directed by Anne-Marie Deschamps, contains some of bishop Fulbert de Chartres’ (ca. 970–1028) monophonic works, along with later polyphonic settings that are based on his chants (11th – 13th century).

I am especially fond of the Solem Iustitiae, regem paritura supremum, a most touching and serene monody with beautiful melismata, here being sung by Anne-Marie Deschamps and Dominique Thibaudat, and its 13th century organum setting, in which the cantus is sung by mezzo soprano Françoise Levy:

Solem iustitiae regem paritura supremum
stella Maria maris hodie processit ad ortum

which I roughly translate to:

Today Mary is born, star of the sea,
who gave birth to the sun of justice,
the supreme king.

The chant is taken from the responsoria of the Nativity of the Virgin, a feast which Fulbert is said1 to have been the first to celebrate in France.

(The CD was later republished as “Fulbert de Chartres: Chantre de l’an mil”. I should most definitely thank professor Craig M. Wright of Yale University for helping me find this specific recording.)

Fritz Wunderlich - Dichterliebe (Robert Schumann)

Fritz Wunderlich - Dichterliebe Deutsche Grammophon 139 125 SLPM – 1966, Germany

When I was quite young, I felt a something of an aversion to Schumann. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but certain twitches in his harmonic discourse made me feel uneasy (and I was glad to find out I wasn’t the only one2). It took me some time to fully appreciate the subtleties and sophistication of his language, and I consider Dichterliebe (together with the 5 Stücke im Volkston, Op.102) to be my gateway cycle.

Robert Schumann was only 30 years old when he composed the song cycle. Heinrich Heine’s words are set ever so delicately, and this specific recording by Fritz Wunderlich – years ago recommended as a replacement for my Fischer-Dieskau CD, by someone then most dear to me – is perfect in every aspect. The tempi are spot on, Giesen’s piano accompaniment empathic, and Wunderlich’s voice clear, naturally transparent and intensely expressive.

My personal highlights on this 1965 recording are Ich will meine Seele tauchen, Ich grolle nicht (!), Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen and Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet.

Wunderlich died shortly before his 36th birthday, barely a year after recording the Dichterliebe.

  1. C. Headlam, The Story of Chartres. Dent, 1902 - p.78 [return]
  2. C. Burkhart, Departures from the norm in two songs from Schumann’s Liederkreis. In “Schenker Studies”, Cambridge University Press, 1990. [return]