Concert Review

Matthias Goerne (baritone)/Graham Johnson (piano) Goethe 250: Lieder recital at Wigmore Hall; 28 March 2000

Matthias Goerne is one of the group of excellent lieder singers who have inherited collectively the mantle of the great, and in his time unique, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. His voice is mellifluous and under perfect control. He spins a long line, perfectly shaped, and was able to take a song like Wolf's Anakreon's Grab slowly and quietly, to magical effect. He can raise a fortissimo but does so infrequently and without coarsening the tone.

His Goethe programme of Schubert and Wolf tended towards heavy and solemn in the first half, such are many of the poems Schubert set, and with some of the songs necessarily transposed downwards. The recital gave an opportunity to compare Ganymed, the Harper songs and Prometheus with Hugo Wolf's versions. Schubert's artless, popular Heidenroslein suited Matthias Goerne less well. The Wolf sequence included three noisy, fast and irreverent songs, Frech & Froh 1 & 2 (Cheerful insolence), about getting on with girls, accumulating cash and enjoying life, including the pleasures of love. Gutmann und Gutweib was a long tale about who should get out of bed on a cold night to bolt the door - whilst the couple argued, intruders took off with their whisky! Their rumbustious accompaniments taxed even the usually imperturbable Graham Johnson. But the sound which lives in the memory is the suave legato and rapt concentration of Schubert's Wandrers Nachtlied, and in their encore (which followed the towering climax of Wolf's Prometheus) Wolf's sublime evocation of Anakreon's Grab.

Matthias Goerne with Graham Johnson can be enjoyed in Schubert's Schlegel songs on one of the latest CDs in the monumental and indispensable Hyperion Schubert Edition [CDJ33027 £11.99]. Also to be recommended most strongly is his account with pianist Eric Schneider of Eisler's Hollywood Songbook [Decca480 582-2DH £12.99].

Peter Grahame Woolf

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