Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Matthias Goerne (baritone)
Helmut Deutsch (piano, CD 1), Eric Schneider (piano, CD 2)
rec. Teldex Studio, Berlin, February-April 2011 (CD1); June 2011-February 2012 (CD2)
Booklet with texts and translations included
Full track-listing at end of review
Reviewed as mp3 download from eclassical.com com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit download, with pdf booklet)
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902109/10 [68:35 + 61:50]
This is the eighth and penultimate volume of Mathias Goerne’s traversal of the baritone lieder of Schubert. It comes as a double album, with Helmut Deutsch at the piano on CD 1 and Eric Schneider on CD 2. These are two experienced lieder accompanists who also appeared on Volume 2. The final volume, No. 9, is due towards the end of 2014.
The virtues of this series are well enough known by now. It’s been well received both here on MusicWeb International and elsewhere - I can’t better Simon Thompson’s description in his review of Volume 7: ‘Goerne is one of the most distinguished of all lieder baritones at work today. His voice has beauty and expression in spades, with a tone and musical colour to cherish ... his understanding of the text … informs his eminently musical approach to everything he sings.’ I haven’t been following this Harmonia Mundi series as closely as I ought - an oversight which this recording encourages me to put right - but I did like his 1996 recording of Die Winterreise when it was reissued on mid-price Hyperion CDA30021 sufficiently to say that it would do almost as well as one of Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings of that wonderful work for my desert island (Download Roundup, October 2010).
Nothing here is quite in the class of Winterreise or even Schwanengesang, which Goerne gave us on Volume 7, but I don’t know a single Schubert song that isn’t captivating. We get a good mixture here of the well-known and lieder which I didn’t know at all well. Almost half the texts are poems by Goethe - two on CD 1 and eleven on CD 2, including Wanderers Nachtlied which gives its name to the entire collection. This is - the one that begins Über allen Gipfeln, not the one beginning Der du von Himmel bist: there are two poems with that title and Schubert set both. Both the poem and the song are particular favourites - I’m sorry to say that I desecrated my school-prize copy of The Oxford Book of German Verse with enthusiastic sixth-form notes in black ball-point on Goethe’s poetry and that of the Romantic poets.
The voice of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau inevitably lurks in the back of my mind in hearing these performances but any comparison between his lighter baritone and Matthias Goerne’s darker tones would be fatuous when both are so good. Some lieder are perhaps better suited to one or the other - Heidenröslein, say, to Fischer-Dieskau and the voice of death in Der Tod und das Mädchen or Wanderers Nachtlied to Goerne. Even that penny-in-the-slot approach ignores the different qualities which Goerne brings to the former and Dieskau to the latter.
Goerne is excellent in both the lieder that I’ve mentioned as playing to his strengths. He also shines in the more thoughtful songs, such as Litanei (also known as Alle Seelen). Rather than as competitors, it’s better to view the two singers as complementary, especially when there’s such a tempting collection of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore in Schubert on an inexpensive DG Entrée CD (4741732) or of the Goethe poems with Jörg Demus, including both settings of Wanderers Nachtlied on DG Originals (E4577472 - January 2010 Download Roundup).
Both accompanists are first-rate - worthy to be mentioned alongside Demus or Moore or Graham Johnson, Goerne’s accompanist on that Winterreise recording.
I listened to the 24/96 and mp3 downloads of the new Harmonia Mundi recording from eclassical.com. Both are very good of their kind, with a slight but significant advantage to the higher-quality version. The 16-bit CD sound falls between the two, so I have no reason to doubt that it, too, sounds fine.
The booklet, which also comes complete with the download, contains texts and translations and an interesting essay on Schubert’s Schwanengesang by Christophe Grisi, though I’m not at all clear why that’s included with the new recording. It’s repeated verbatim from the booklet that came with Schwanengesang and Piano Sonata, D960, on HMC902139/40, so its inclusion here seems to be an oversight - perhaps confined to the download?
Just as I was about to conclude this review an alternative recording of some of the baritone lieder appeared from Hyperion, with Florian Boesch accompanied by Roger Vignoles (CDA68010). In fact, there’s hardly any overlap between the two. Boesch and Vignoles are a little faster in Wanderers Nachtlied, D768, without losing the contemplative power of words and music. I’m pleased that they also offer D224, the setting of the other Goethe poem of that name.
I’ve so far had only a brief listen to this Hyperion recital, but I’m impressed and I intend to return for a more detailed review. Entitled Der Wanderer and sporting the famous Caspar David Friedrich painting of that name on the cover, it opens with performances of the two lieder with that title, D489 and D689, followed by Der Wanderer an den Mond and, later Der Pilgrim. Even if you don’t buy the CD or download, the pdf booklet with Richard Wigmore’s perceptive notes is yours to download free. I can’t better his description of the ‘exalted simplicity’ of Goethe’s writing in the two Nachtlied poems.
Schubert’s lieder are one of the greatest glories of the musical repertoire; his heart and soul went into the music to such an extent that his friends thought that composing Die Winterreise hastened his death. If you don’t know those suited to the baritone voice at all well, I would propose either of the Fischer-Dieskau anthologies listed above or, for a selection from the wonderful Hyperion series, the CD is deleted but the download comes complete with booklet for £4.50. More seasoned Schubertians, especially those who have any of the earlier volumes in the Harmonia Mundi series, should buy the new recording with confidence. Just keep enough pocket money in your purse or wallet for the probability that I shall be returning to favour Hyperion’s new recording, too.
Full Track listing
An die untergehende Sonne, D457 [6:38]
Der Tod und das Mädchen, D531 [2:24]
Die Rose, D745 [3:11]
Erinnerung (Totenopfer), D101 [2:17]
Litanei, D343 [7:54]
Auf dem Wasser zu singen, D774 [3:52]
Abendbilder, D650 [5:20]
Nach einem Gewitter, D561 [2:10]
Der Zwerg, D771 [5:29]
Im Frühling, D882 [4:17]
Die Blumensprache, D519 [2:05]
Viola, D786 [13:34]
An die Entfernte, D765 [2:52]
Bei dir allein, D866/2 [2:04]
Ganymed, D544 [4:21]
Wanderers Nachtlied, D768 [2:27]
Schäfers Klagelied, D121 [3:56]
Heidenröslein, D257 [1:56]
Rastlose Liebe, D138 [1:19]
An den Mond, D259 [5:58]
Trost in Tränen, D120 [4:10]
Erster Verlust, D226 [2:12]
Der Musensohn, D764 [2:01]
Geheimes, D719 [1:44]
Versunken, D715 [2:02]
An Schwager Kronos, D369 [2:54]
Geisternähe, D100 [4:28]
Das war ich, D174 [2:49]
Das Rosenband, D280 [1:41]
Furcht der Geliebten, D285 [2:01]
An Sie, D288 [2:42]
Die Liebe hat gelogen, D751 [2:33]
Lachen und Weinen, D777 [1:46]
Dass sie hier gewesen, D775 [3:52]
Der Einsame, D800 [4:10]
Die Sterne, D684 [5:14]