Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Water in Songs by Shubert
Meeres Stille, D216. Der Taucher, D77. Auf dem Wasser zu singen, D774. Schwanengesang, D957 - No. 12, Am Meer. Der Schiffer, D536. Auf der Donau, D553. Auf dem See, D543. Die Bürgschaft, D246.

Peter Kooij (baritone); Leo van Doeselaar (fortepiano).
BIS CD-1089 [62'19] [DDD]

The image of water, particularly water in motion, occurs frequently in Schubert's selected texts, so a disc which takes this as its central image is to be welcomed. On this disc, poems by Goethe, Schiller, Heine, Mayrhofer and Stolberg-Stolberg inspire Schubert to some of his finest settings. This disc is further noteworthy for its use of a fortepiano as accompaniment, and this is one of the several reasons to recommend searching it out. There is a surprising range of depth and range of texture in evidence, from the soft-grained Meeres Stille to the almost orchestral sonorities of the latter parts of Der Taucher.

Peter Kooij, perhaps most recently best known for his participation in Suzuki's Bach cantata cycle on this label, is able to show off his Schubertian credentials here. He is able to call on a seamless legato (in Auf der Donau, for instance), as well as demonstrating a sure grasp of the dramatic situation. In the hands of Kooij and Doeselaar, the desolation of Am Meer (on sabbatical from Schwanengesang) is almost palpable. In the two most extended songs, the ballads Der Taucher (24 minutes) and Die Burgschaft (19 minutes), Kooij and Doeselaar project the sheer scale of the songs well: the structure has been carefully considered in both cases so that one's attention remains fixed throughout. The tension of Die Burgschaft is effectively dissipated by a flowing and fairly brisk Auf dem Wasser zu singen, whereas the drama of Die Burgschaft (with its teasingly inconclusive ending) is left to resonate in the listener's mind. Stephen Varcoe's account of Der Taucher in Hyperion's Schubert series (CDJ33016) is similarly convincing and would sit well alongside on the library shelf (he also dedicated the disc to the theme of water, but with minimal duplication).

This is a thought-provoking recital, in all the right ways. Kooij's clean voice and superb negotiation of intervals coupled with a real feeling for Schubert's harmonic progressions means that the interpretations have a rightness about them that will guarantee return visits.

Colin Clarke



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