Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Schwanengesang, D957. Totengräbers Heimwehe, D842. Nachtstück, D672. An den Mond,D193. Im Frühling, D882.
Christian Gerhaler (baritone); Gerold Huber (piano).
Arte Nova 74321 75075-2 [DDD] [71'18]
 Bargain Price

After the less than inspiring experience of another super-budget Schubert song-cycle, Christian Elsner's Die schöne Müllerin on Naxos (8.554664), my heart sank somewhat at the prospect of this Schwanengesang, the collection of Lieder posthumously published by Tobias Haslinger. Gerhaler is on an altogether higher plane than Elsner, however, and if cost is a primary consideration this version looms high on the list.

Gerhaler has given concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He sings with sensitivity, his lightish baritone fully at the service of the music. He has a nicely-formed high register (listen to the repetitions of 'Ade!' in the seventh song), a pleasing tone, flexibility of phrasing and (importantly) clear diction. He obviously places much importance on the meaning of the words: a pity, then, that Arte Nova continue to reproduce texts only, with no translations for non-German speakers.

Gerhaler finds a Winterreise-like sense of desolation within some of the Lieder, most notably in Die Stadt and Der Doppelgänger, which is fully appropriate. This remains an enjoyable, carefully thought out reading that will give much pleasure, without however erasing memories of some of the greater traversals: try Fischer-Dieskau and Moore's 1972 version on DG 415 188-2 or Fassbaender and Riemann's dark performance on DG 429 766-2. The fillers on the present disc are two songs that dwell on a Romantic death-longing (Totengräbers Heimweh and Nachtstück) and two that mourn the loss of a beloved (An den Mond and Im Frühling). Gerhaler brings dramatic contrasts to Totengräbers Heimweh and an easy flow to Im Frühling. Throughout Gerold Huber is a sympathetic accompanist who can evoke tranquillity and drama in equal measure.


Colin Clarke



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