||Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Die junge Nonne, D828
Das Rosenband, D280
Auf dem See, D543
Die Götter Griechenlands, D677
Der Jüngling und der Tod, D545
Der Jüngling am Bache, D30
Entzückung an Laura, D390
Der Sieg, D805
Der Musensohn, D764
Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano)
Graham Johnson (piano) Nos. 1-6
Martin Isepp (piano), Nos.7-8
Geoffrey Parsons (piano), Nos. 9-19
Rec (Nos. 1-6): 2nd October 1977, The Maltings, Snape
(Nos. 7-8): 20th April 1970, St John's Smith Square, London
(Nos. 9-19): 1st September 1980, Usher Hall, Edinburgh
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4070-2
Janet Baker hardly needs a general introduction as a lieder singer. Her interpretations of Schubert are by now legendary, but these recordings from broadcast performances are not widely known. They are marvellous, and fully worthy of her name.
The programme is imaginatively compiled from three recitals across a period of ten years from 1970, and there are three different accompanists, each of whom is a major artist in his own right, particularly in this field.
The poets are varied, but three in particular are featured: Goethe, Schiller and Mayrhofer. Since Schubert excelled in his response to poetry, it is no surprise that each poet brings forth a different artistic personality from the composer, and Baker makes the most of this. For example, the dynamic nuances are quite wonderful, as in the real pianissimo effected in Entzückung an Laura, or the more dramatic approach in Sehnsucht. Die Götter Griechenlands is also splendidly done.
A few of the songs are perennial favourites, such as Der Musensohn, but there are plenty of others which are equally fine but hardly known.. Into this category come such as Auf dem See and Abendtern, and it is surely a tribute to the imagination of this compilation that it should explore the repertoire at the same time as paying homage to a great artist.
The recorded sound is good, not necessarily constant in acoustic or atmosphere, but never wanting in accuracy or pleasing tone. Each accompanist worked regularly with Janet Baker and enjoyed a special rapport with her.
The only disappointment has nothing directly to do
with the performances, but concerns the general packaging. There is
an interesting essay about Dame Janet, but practically nothing about
the music she is performing. As if this is not bad enough, there are
no texts and translations, so anyone wishing to make the most of these
performances will need to have access to documentary material from some
other source, such as John Reed's
comprehensive study of the Schubert songs. But why should a major
issue such as this fall victim to crass editorial decisions? Surely
if recordings are to be issued, they should be issued properly. There
really is no excuse.