Concert Review

SCHUBERT Die Schöne Müllerin Matthias Goerne (baritone) & Eric Schneider (piano) Wigmore Hall, London. 9 September 2000

This was 70 minutes of music making so intense in its special way as to make it hard to draw a breath. Studied over many years, and sung with Brendel at the latter's request, Matthias Goerne has delved deeply into the Lieder recitalist's best loved song cycle in the canon of masterpieces and found a totally individual approach. He draws you into the feverish, disturbed mind of a self-absorbed, over-impressionable adolescent and rings a chord with anyone who has experienced rejection in earlier life and over-reacted with, at least temporary, suicidal thinking.

The poems were intoned in a quiet, confidential manner as if freshly minted by the singer, who became Schubert's protagonist. It started with an immediate assurance that this most beautiful of baritone voices was in perfect health and under complete control; no warming up in this recital. The prevailing dynamic level was low, confidential as if talking to himself, we privileged eavesdroppers upon his thoughts. This was matched by Eric Schneider, who was closely attuned to the subtleties of Goerne's interpretation and was always precisely with him. He too fined down many of the figurations in what gradually felt to be an interpretation which brought a legacy of experience from the composer's time right down to ours. It was piano playing that could only happen on a well toned and tuned modern piano. The word painting was always present, but not emphasised so forcefully as with, say, Fischer-Dieskau. Yet there were outbursts of full power which were all the more telling for being only occasional.

It was an interpretation which pushed aside thought of comparison and checking detail in the score; Goerne was Schubert and his miller boy, and one took it on his terms without question. At the end there was a prolonged hush before the two musicians embraced warmly and the audience gave them an equally warm and heartfelt ovation.

The perfect way to open the 2000-2001 season of the well loved hall which is to celebrate its centenary next Spring. Catch Matthias Goerne at his next appearance within range, and meanwhile there are many CDs to relish - MotW has reviewed his Eisler Hollywood Songbook with Eric Schneider Decca 460582-2DH and his contribution to the Hyperion Schubert Edition (now completed) with Graham Johnson (Vol. 27) Hyperion CDJ33027 both recommendations.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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