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Franz SCHUBERT (1797 – 1828) Schwanengesang (1828) D.957
Bo Skovhus (baritone)
Stefan Vladar (piano)
rec. Liszthalle, Raiding, 2016
Sung texts with English translations enclosed CAPRICCIOC5292 [62.39]
Schwanengesang differs from Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise insofar as it is not a song cycle in the conventional sense of the word. Whether Schubert had intended it as a cycle we don’t know, but anyway he hadn’t got the time to arrange them in any cyclical order. He might even have had plans to complete further songs but death intervened. Most writers on the subject agree that there are no logic connections between the existing songs. The publisher, Tobias Haslinger, a year after Schubert’s demise, simply published them in the order Schubert had left them: seven settings of poems by Rellstab, followed by six Heine settings and then threw in Seidl’s Die Taubenpost for good measure – this is generally regarded as Schubert’s very last song. This is also the order in which they have been performed. But some singers at least have found it an unsatisfactory order and tried to do something about it. About a handful years ago Dutch baritone Thomas Oliemans with Malcolm Martineau at the piano released a disc where they stuck to the traditional order but between the Rellstab and the Heine groups he inserted four songs to texts by Ernst Konrad Friedrich Schulze. They are late songs too, dark in character and make a suitable bridge between the two groups. It worked well and I have returned to that disc a couple of times and still find it satisfying.
On the present disc Bo Skovhus and Stefan Vladar go a step further and restow the order quite drastically. They also add four songs by Seidl and put them first together with Die Taubenpost. This Seidl group is followed by the six Heine songs and finally the Rellstab songs, with the addition of Herbst as the penultimate song and Abschied, logically, as the finale. And who can state that this is less authentic than Haslinger’s ‘original’? I admit that when first listening to the reordered ‘cycle’ it was a bit confusing, but playing it again it felt rational. Is it gimmicky? No, I don’t think so. There is a lot of serious and careful consideration behind this decision.
The readings of the individual songs are also deeply considered. Skovhus is an intelligent interpreter and here, even more than in Die schöne Müllerin, he adopts a lightness of tone in many of the Seidl songs that make them very intimate. Take Die Taubenpost, here placed as number three, so light and airy and, sort of hovering over the ground – helped also by the transparent accompaniment. Wiegenlied is warm and tender with flexible tempo shifts, while Bei dir allein is bouncy and forward-moving and powerfully leads over to a mighty Der Atlas. Ihr Bild is mild and inward – like a whisper – then grows to an intense final climax. Die Stadt is lugubrious, grey, forbidding, in Am Meer the twilight mood is conveyed with great warmth and sadness. He catches the shifting moods so well in songs like Kriegers Ahnung and Frühlingssehnsucht and the popular Ständchen, often heard separately in recitals, is wonderfully soft and inward. Aufenthalt is full of pain, In der Ferne touching and the two concluding songs brings the cycle to a much more satisfactory end than the traditional Die Taubenpost.
Bo Skovhus’s voice is still in mint condition and the interplay between singer and pianist is admirable. Whether one likes this restructuring and amendments is of course up to the individual listener. My personal reaction is wholly positive and I know I will listen to this disc again – for the novelty but even more important: for the music-making! Now I’m looking forward to the last disc in Bo Skovhus’s and Stefan Vladar’s Schubert trilogy: Winterreise which is already in my review pile!
1. Sehnsucht D.879, Op. 105 No. 4 (Seidl) [2:42]
2. Am Fenster D.878, Op. 105 No. 3 (Seidl) [3:35]
3. Die Taubenpost (Seidl) [3:41]
4. Wiegenlied D.867, Op. 105 No. 2 (Seidl) [3:42]
5. Bei dir allein D.866, Op. 95 No. 2 (Seidl) [1:42]
6. Der Atlas (Heine) [1:56]
7. Ihr Bild (Heine) [2:52]
8. Das Fischermädchen (Heine) [2:13]
9. Die Stadt (Heine) [3:07]
10. Am Meer (Heine) [3:43]
11. Der Doppelgänger (Heine) [4:06]
12. Liebesbotschaft (Rellstab) [2:40]
13. Kriegers Ahnung (Rellstab) [4:52]
14. Frühlingssehnsucht (Rellstab) [3:19]
15. Ständchen (Rellstab) [3:45]
16. Aufenthalt (Rellstab) [2:19]
17. In der Ferne (Rellstab) [5:26]
18. Herbst D.945 (Rellstab) [2:58]
19. Abschied (Rellstab) [3:52]