Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

1. Die Forelle
2. An Sylvia
3. Heidenroslein
4. Du bist die rühe
5. Der Musensohn
6. An die Musik
7. Auf dem wasser zu singen
8. Sei mir gegrusst
9. Litane: auf dem Fest Allerseelen
10. Die junge Nonne
11. Ave Maria
12. "Ellens Gesang III" Im Fruhling
13. Gretchen am Spinnrade
14. Nacht und Träume
15. Ganymed
16. Lied der Mignon
17. Seligkeit

Felicity Lott (soprano)
Graham Johnson (piano)
Rec 6th-7th February 1988, Haberdashers Aske's, London
REGIS RRC 1052 [65.08]
For around £6 from your retailer

Felicity Lott and Graham Johnson recorded this recital for IMP Classics in 1988, since when they have remained at the forefront of their field: there is no question that they are among the world's leading artists in the lieder repertory. So at bargain price (as previously) this disc is quite literally a bargain, and anyone seeking a top class survey which includes the most popular Schubert songs need not hesitate.

Schubert was a fluent and prolific composer, and to some extent his lack of material success in Vienna allowed him to devote his time and attention to the more intimate forms of musical expression, in particular the solo song with piano. Before and during his lifetime, the composition of lieder was principally an amateur pursuit, and professional, 'successful' composers only turned to the genre as a diversion from other, more prestigious and lucrative activities.

In the longer term, Schubert's output of more than six hundred songs established both a repertoire and an artistic frame of reference. Later composers built upon, and sought to emulate, his achievement, though none has ever surpassed it: Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, Wolf, Mahler, Strauss. In this context Nacht und Träume (1822), with its emphasis on the discovery of the unconscious through the imagery of night, is perhaps the most romantic song Schubert ever wrote. Felicity Lott adopts a daringly slow tempo, but with her accompanists support she achieves a lovely floating tone and carefully controlled dynamic range which convey the essential characteristics of the song.

In fact these features are found throughout the recital. There is a marvellous tone, allied to sensitive phrasing (Johnson is in his element here), secure breath control and awareness of style. The highlights abound, but they definitely include Du bist die rühe and Ganymed, in both of which the control of dynamics is remarkable. To make the point, contrast the lightness of Ganymed with the richer tone offered in Mignons Lied and the sombre mood in Litanie. If there is a caveat, it is very slight: a tendency to be rather full in tone and quasi operatic in some of the lighter songs, for example An die Musik.

Graham Johnson is a specialist in this field and his imagination and control are exemplary. The accompaniments are subtle and beautifully shaded, always adding an extra dimension to the performances. There is a helpful booklet essay by James Murray, which has something to say about each song. However, on the debit side (as in the previous issue), there are no texts and translations.

Terry Barfoot

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