Steinway & Sons releases first complete recording of the vocal works of Artur Schnabel, with prolific Steinway Artist Jenny Lin and contralto Sara Couden.
The album includes the world premiere recordings of Artur schnabel's five songs for voice and piano and is a follow up to Lin's 2019 recording of Schnabel's complete piano Music
On November 4, 2022, Steinway & Sons releases the album Artur Schnabel: Complete Vocal Works (STNS 30208). Pianist Jenny Lin is joined by contralto Sara Couden for this first complete recording of Artur Schnabel’s vocal works, featuring the world premiere recording of Schnabel’s Five Songs for Voice and Piano. Lin, known for championing the work of lesser-known composers, hopes to bring awareness to Schnabel’s important contributions to the world of vocal music.
Schnabel is regarded as one of the most important pianists of the 20th century, particularly for his role in re-popularizing Beethoven’s piano music. From the age of seven, Schnabel was encouraged to become a professional musician. However, he had another, more secret passion for composing. Through composing, Schnabel was able to challenge himself and push the boundaries of music, which he detailed in a letter to his wife: “Manuscript paper is the only place where I am completely free. My space. With me as the master. I decide where to expand or set boundaries. I alone reap the fruits.”
Schnabel married German contralto Therese Behr in 1905, who he previously had a working relationship with as her young accompanist.
“Everyone knows Schnabel as a pianist; this is about Schnabel the composer, who really had a talent,” Lin said. “Also Schnabel the husband, who wrote these songs for his wife, and Schnabel the chamber-music performer, who was so sensitive with all these things.”
Schnabel’s complete collection includes three symphonies, five string quartets, a piano concerto, chamber works, and over 30 pieces for solo keyboard, the last of which Lin recorded in 2019. Listeners can enjoy a variety of styles on the new album, from conventional elements of romanticism to deeply personal pieces. The range of styles included in Schnabel’s works surprised Couden.
“The thing I responded to most strongly about the songs was how delicate and true and inspired Schnabel was with the texts, throughout the styles that he uses,” Couden said. “You can always hear that he’s putting together music around the meanings of the poems.”
One such piece on the album is Notturno, first recorded in 1985 by German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, with composer Aribert Reimann at the piano. The rendition is Lin’s favorite. “I think it’s really beautiful, and it should be in the repertoire for singers,” Lin said.
With the release of the album, both Steinway and Lin hope to enhance Schnabel’s reputation as a composer with a robust and compelling catalogue for not only piano, but for the voice.
“Sara Couden deployed her huge and fluid mezzo-soprano to glorious effect in a range of vocal showcases — now tender and probing, now extravagantly athletic.”
“Couden was a huge sensation in everything she delivered - a model performance leaving you in no doubt her star had ascended.”
San Francisco Classical Voice
“Lin’s playing is unusually expressive, inclusive of the use of rhythmic flexibility and graduated dynamic phrasing.”
“Jenny Lin is a resourceful performer blessed with superb technique and indefatigable curiosity.”
TimeOut New York
“More than a century after their devotion inspired these songs, the Schnabels would surely rejoice in this unforeseen fruit of their union, a recital in which extraordinary artists of another generation rapturously reawaken their love.”
Voix des Arts
“Schnabel treats every text sensitively and with feeling, producing songs that are very much of their time but are certainly deserving of as much attention as others from the same period. Couden and Lin make a first-rate case for all this music...”
“Expressiveness and innovation, as well as the certainty of design, make for exciting and challenging scores that stimulate both singers and pianists. Couden offer[s] the songs in a chamber-music approach that fully carries these works.”
“Couden's rich, slightly smoky voice was an ideal choice for this material... it is a shame that [these pieces] aren't better known. This beautifully recorded album may change that situation.”
“Schnabel's settings [are] sophisticated, lyrical, artfully crafted, and emotionally resonant. His engagement with the texts and the sensitive music he wrote to complement them makes for rewarding listening, especially when Lin and Couden give themselves so fully to the performances.”
“American contralto Sara Couden and pianist Jenny Lin together offer beauty of line and sound, and deliver each song with impressive unity, commitment and understanding, and careful attention to detail.”
“Making her CD debut, American contralto Sara Couden, with her dark sepia timbre, perfectly suits the songs’ restrained, autumnal moods, prevalent even when the texts rhapsodize about the beauties of nature or love’s joys and sorrows. Pianist Jenny Lin admirably provides pianist-composer Schnabel’s often elaborate accompaniments.”
The Whole Note
Schnabel: Complete Vocal Works / Sara Couden, Jenny Lin • STNS 30208
Release Date: 11/04/2022
Recorded April 23-25, 2022 at Samurai Hotel Recording Studio, Astoria New York.
Post-Production at Swan Studios NYC.
Producer/Engineer: Andreas K. Meyer
Piano Technician: James Carney
Piano: Steinway Model D #131601
Executive Producers: Eric Feidner and Jon Feidner
Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Design: Cover to Cover Design, Anilda Carrasquillo
Photo of Sara Couden: Veronique Kherian
Photo of Jenny Lin: Liz Linder
This recording was co-sponsored by the Schnabel Music Foundation, LLC
About the Artists
American contralto Sara Couden is a premiere interpreter of opera, oratorio, chamber music, and art song. Praised by Opera News for her “unusually rich and resonant” voice, Sara has thrilled audiences worldwide on stages including the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Charleston Symphony, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and St. Petersburg Opera. Her vast operatic and concert repertoire encompasses works spanning six centuries of musical history, ranging in style from terrifying to tragic, sacred to sacrilegious, commanding to comedic.
Sara is an indefatigable champion of art song repertoire and sought-after recitalist. She brings a profound love of language and a deep respect for the intimate conversation between singer and pianist to every song she interprets. A true collaborator, Sara relishes any opportunity to explore, reflect upon and respond to the piano’s broad range of expressive possibilities, bringing art songs to life with her own palette of colors and vocal effects. She has been featured in recital at Lincoln Center, the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago, the Staunton Music Festival, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and the Brooklyn Art Song Society, among others.
This recording marks Sara’s debut interpretation of the music of Artur Schnabel. “The tonality Schnabel employs in his art songs is complex and often challenging for both singer and pianist, but I find his approach to his texts to be extremely delicate and beautiful. The range of feelings he evokes in the poems he sets about nature, love, and memory is incredible: the subject matter is narrow, but the nuance he finds in each poem, and then illuminates so specifically in each setting, makes his songs both richly varied and very human – an extremely impressive poetic and musical achievement. It isn’t every composer who works so intimately with the essence of his or her text. He always tells the story of the poem with directness, power, and a creativity stemming from sensitive comprehension. Despite the developing sophistication of Schnabel’s compositional style and harmonic language as his life and career progressed, his intense dedication to his texts ensures that the heart of his songs never falters.”
Sara is a graduate of the Lindemann Young Artist Program at the Metropolitan Opera and earned a master’s degree with Honors in Opera from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Sara is also an early music enthusiast and holds an A.D. in Early Music, Chamber Music, and Oratorio from the Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music.
Jenny Lin, a Steinway Artist, has made a name for herself on the world stage thanks to her “remarkable technical command” and “gift for melodic flow” (New York Times). The Washington Post has extolled her “confident fingers” and “spectacular technique,” while Gramophone has hailed her as “an exceptionally sensitive pianist.”
Born in Taiwan, raised in Austria, educated in Europe and the US, she has built an international reputation distinguished by inventive collaborations with a breadth of artists, and has performed widely with renowned orchestras and symphonies at the world’s most notable concert halls.
Jenny has a close affinity with Philip Glass, whose Etudes she performs globally, and which inspired her to embark on a commissioning initiative, The Etudes Project. She is the featured pianist in Elliot Goldenthal’s original motion picture score for Julie Taymor’s 2020 film, The Glorias, and the central figure in Cooking for Jenny by Felix Cabez for Elemental Films, a musical documentary portraying her journey to Spain, among other media appearances such as CBS Sunday Morning, NPR’s Performance Today.
Jenny recently recorded an album for the Steinway & Sons label with accordionist Guy Klucevsek (created in “contactless” fashion) featuring the music of Giya Kancheli. Notable recordings in Lin’s catalogue (which includes more than 30 albums on Steinway & Sons, Hänssler Classic, eOne, BIS, New World, Albany, etc.) include Artur Schnabel’s complete solo piano music, Philip Glass’s Etudes, the complete Chopin Nocturnes, an album of Broadway song arrangements titled Get Happy, her ingenious release of transcriptions of the songs of Chinese pop singer Teresa Teng, and Melody’s Mostly Musical Day, an album, picture book, and multimedia children’s concert, all released on the Steinway & Sons label.
Fluent in English, German, Mandarin, and French, Jenny holds a bachelor’s degree in German Literature from The Johns Hopkins University and studied music at the Hochschule für Musik, and at the Peabody Conservatory. She resides with her family in New York City and serves on the faculty of the Mannes School of Music - The New School.
About Steinway & Sons label
The STEINWAY & SONS music label produces exceptional albums of solo piano music across all genres. The label — a division of STEINWAY & SONS, maker of the world’s finest pianos — is a perfect vessel for producing the finest quality recordings by some of the most talented pianists in the world.