A real success, this.
Detlef Roth is an accomplished baritone,
and certainly very attuned to Schubert
lieder. This is a varied programme of
mainly lesser-known songs (although
the inclusion of Die Allmacht
will give many a place to lay anchor).
Roth is a German singer with an international
career. His strong, well-balanced baritone
suits Schubert perfectly; as a native
speaker, his diction is superb.
A collection of lieder
on texts by Schubert’s Austrian contemporaries
means in this instance a chance to acquaint
oneself with some of the byways of Schubertian
song production. And a delightful stroll
it is, too.
There are two lieder
over six minutes in duration. Die
Unglückliche (with which the
present collection opens) sets up a
rather solemn, dejected mode (in fact
the trajectory of the recital as a whole
moves, generally, from emotional darkness
to light). The piano introduction is
decidedly world-weary, over whose gently
throbbing chords Roth delicately spins
Schubert’s melody (‘Night falls, with
gentle breezes sinks down/Over weary
mortals’). A more disturbed second stanza
provides contrast; the close, several
verses on, is ultra-gentle, evoking
the stillness of the end. Naxos’s recording
is excellent, faithfully reproducing
Eisenlohr’s warmth of tone. Karoline
Pichler (1769-1843) was the enlightened
poet; it is a lovely poem in its own
Hunting gestures in
the piano are part and parcel of Wiederspruch
(‘Contradiction’), on a poem by Johann
Gabreil Seidl (1804-1875). Playful and
joyous, a lovely touch comes at the
fourth stanza where bare octaves provide
contrast; a delightful warming of harmonies
as the protagonist refers to a ‘Kämmerlein’
(a little room) where his heart is longing.
The prayer-like Glaube,
Hoffnung und Liebe (poet Christoph
Kuffner, 1780-1846) reveals Roth’s smooth
and impressive legato. This is a magical
and at heart gentle lied. Roth commendably
does not over-vibrato the line – he
can do that Schubertian simplicity that
it takes an artist of some maturity
When Schubert ‘did’
carefree, it was like no-one else, and
so it proves in Frohsinn (‘Joy’,
text Ignaz Franz Castelli, 1781-1862).
The piano part is cheeky. Perhaps it
could be even more so than here.
A fair number of Romantic
preoccupations have already made themselves
known (night, nature, wandering and
… of course …death). Absent so far,
however, is the humble lime-tree so
beloved of German Romantic poetry. We
have to wait a full four tracks before,
finally at track 5, it appears, albeit
faded (Die abgelblühte Linde
– ‘The Faded Lime Tree’, text Ludwig
von Széchényi, 1781-1855).
Here it is the symbolism of the flowering
lime tree that concerns us, and the
toll of the seasons thereon. Schubert
treats his subject in hypnotic, almost
worshipping, fashion, its stoic nature
(always there, yet unnoticed in winter
except by the gardener) and humankind’s
reactions thereto stunningly projected.
Worth the wait.
Time is another Romantic
obsession, its very nature and its unstoppability.
Der Flug der Zeit (‘The Flight
of Time’, text also von Széchényi)
visits this subject, impulsive and flighty.
The prize for the best
poet’s name goes to the author of the
text to Das Heimweh (‘Homesickness’),
a certain Johann Ladislaus Pyrker von
Felsö-Eör (1772-1847). Naxos’
excellent annotations alert the reader
to Schubert’s textual additions as well
as pointing out diversions from the
original. The song, Schubert’s D851,
rises to a fair climax. Here is Schubert
stretching his muscles (at 6’48) while
simultaneously revelling in some unabashed
pictorialism: the sweetness he calls
on when the text refers to the dairymaid’s
song in the final stanza.
All of which brings
us to ‘the famous one’, Die Allmacht,
D852. The opening piano chords could
have more tonal depth to them, and so
it is left to Roth to impart a sense
of vast might. Which he almost does,
with some marvellously clean slurs along
the way. Just a slight thinness to the
upper register detracts, yet the climax
when it comes is supremely dramatic.
Schubert really could speak volumes
within the space of a few moments.
A couple of simpler
Lieder follow Labetrank der Liebe,
D177 (‘Refreshing drink of Love’, text
Johann Ludwig Stoll, 1778-1815) and
An die Geliebte, D303 (‘To the
beloved’, also Stoll), both winningly
despatched (particularly affecting are
the descending figures in the latter
Lied that seem to prefigure Brahms).
Vergebliche Liebe, D177 (‘Love
in vain’, text Joseph Karl Bernatd,
1780/1-1850) has two stanzas shot through
with regret; hope does appear in the
third and final stanza, however small
may be the glimmer of hope.
forms the basis of the first stanza
of Die Sterne (‘The Stars,’ text
Johann Georg Fellinger, 1781-1816).
Roth’s smooth legato is a joy, as is
his simplicity of utterance in Die
erste Liebe (‘First Love’, text
Fellinger again). There is some slight
strain possibly at the high end of Roth’s
voice, but it is worth it for a poem
that for once has a happy ending!.
Lob des Tokayers,
D248 (‘In Praise of Tokay’, poem Gabriele
von Baumberg) immediately put me in
mind of Schumann’s Die beide Grenadieren
in its swaggering gait (indeed, it seems
to want to quote the Marseillaise, without
ever doing so!!). This is a fun, light-hearted
ditty in praise of wine, made sparkling
by Eisenlohr’s excellent staccato.
Roth’s shading is demonstrated
amply by the second verse of Der
Sänger am Felsen, D482, (‘The
Singer on the Rock’, words Pichler)
a beautiful, desolate song of mourning;
Ferne von der grossen Stadt (‘Far
from the Great City’, text again Pichler)
despite its title is a breath of fresh
air, air that Roth and Eisenlohr seem
to enjoy breathing (similarly in Skolie,
D306, text Johann Ludwig von Deinhardstein).
The only lied to vie
with Die Allmacht in sheer level
of inspiration is Der Befreier Europas
in Paris, D104 (‘The Liberators
of Europe in Paris’, text Johann Christian
Mikan). This is a magnificent creation,
and that very magnificence comes across
perfectly here (only what may be a touch
of artificial reverb at levels above
The surprise comes
with the ‘Melodram’ Abschied
(‘Farewell’, text Adolf von Pratobevera).
The text is spoken (recited). It is
interesting, coming across almost as
a children’s story, an impression heightened
by the music-box nature of the piano
Finally, Die Fröhlichkeit,
D262 (‘Joyfulness, text Martin Joseph
Prandstetter, 1760-1798) a simple, happy-go-lucky
ditty extolling the virtues of a cheerful
outlook on life. A nice way to end,
delightfully rendered by all concerned.
Good advice, too.
This disc is a voyage
of discovery, a treasure-trove fully
worthy of investigation.
See also review
by Christopher Howells