Behind the Lines CD cover

Title: Behind the Lines
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Catalogue no.: 479 2472
Release date: 9 June 2014

Anna Prohaska made her debut at Berlin’s Komische Oper at the age of seventeen, and she has quickly forged a career on the opera and recital stages. Her latest recording, with pianist Eric Schneider, takes on a theme unusual, even daring, for a woman artist: war and its effects on soldiers and civilians alike. A selection of twenty-five songs ranges over four centuries and four languages. The following composers are represented: Beethoven, Eisler, Wolf, Rachmaninoff, Traill, Ives, Quilter, Cavendish, Schubert, Rihm, Liszt, Schumann, Poulenc, Mahler, and Weill. The CD ends with two of Weill’s four settings of Walt Whitman. She and Schneider will tour with selections from the program later this year. They have already performed at Salzburg and at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Several male singers have recorded some or all of Weill’s Walt Whitman Songs, but it is exceedingly unusual for women to interpret them. Weill did compose the cycle with men singers in mind, but women can certainly perform them, too, as Prohaska proves here. A recent edition of the Whitman Songs provides each song in a higher and lower key, giving performers more options. Weill’s settings were composed during and after World War II, but Whitman wrote the poems during the American Civil War, and Prohaska presents them on an album that commemorates the hundredth anniversary of World War I.

In Opernwelt, Thomas Seedorf noted the “bezwingender Grösse [der] beiden Whitman-Songs von Weill” (the compelling grandeur of both of Weill’s Whitman Songs). Nicholas Kenyon in The Guardian hailed the new recording as “a superbly conceived and wonderfully performed collection about war and its emotional impact,” and other reviewers have been just as rapturous. Clearly, Prohaska has made a name for herself not just as a singer, but as a creator of compelling programs as well. With any luck, she will offer more Weill in the future.


Deutsche Grammophon’s page on the CD

Profile of Prohaska by Manuel Brug (Die Welt)

Learn more about the Four Walt Whitman Songs


Rupert Christiansen (The Telegraph)

Norman Lebrecht