Iíve said it once and
Iíll say it again: Christian Gerhaher
is incredibly fortunate to have teamed
up with such a pianist as Gerold Huber.
Iíll just give one example, though each
Lied here could yield its separate tale.
On the face of it the pianist hasnít
much to do in "Himmelsfunken"
except play chords. But Huber doesnít
play them, he seemingly discovers
them one by one, and by giving each
its special weight, balance and colour,
he creates a panoply of variegated cloud
passing over us such as Debussy needed
an entire orchestra to evoke.
I repeat, though, that
everywhere in this programme Huber explores
the inner detail and the psychological
meaning of Schubertís apparently innocent
piano writing. With a partner like this,
the singerís work is half done.
But only half done,
of course. It would be a sad embarrassment
if such artistry at the piano found
the singer unresponsive. Gerhaher has
a most beautiful voice which does not
lose its quality as a result of his
search for characterisation, expression
and the right weight for each word.
This is more interventionist singing
than that I was recently admiring by
the baritone Wolfgang Holzmair on Naxos,
yet it is done with such naturalness
that it can only heighten our appreciation
of the music. Lastly, the two artists
work in perfect dialogue. This really
is lieder singing of the highest order.
And the artists have
not made things easy for themselves
Ė or indeed for us Ė by choosing an
extremely intense programme. You will
have to wait a good while before hearing
any trace of the light-hearted Schubert
of popular fame, or before they concede
us or song or two which is at all well
known. And when those come, "Fischerweise"
and "Der Musensohn" are a
little more pensive than usual, lively
but aware of the transient values below.
"Du bist die Ruh", a cruel
test of the singerís control, is superbly
A common theme in present-day
music criticism, implied if not always
spoken aloud when dealing with long-dead
pianists, conductors and opera singers,
is that "they donít make íem like
that any more". Yet I think no
one will deny that ours is a golden
age of lieder singing. Why should this
I suggest that a real
understanding of Schubert is a post-war
acquisition. Though a few brave souls
in earlier years sang the three great
cycles and even played the last piano
sonatas, Schubert was basically seen
as a purveyor of lovely tunes. In the
world of the Lied it was Fischer-Dieskau
who taught us that there was a whole
range of undiscovered music here; it
may also be relevant that the post-war
world has come to terms with Mahler,
with the result that we can see more
clearly where Schubert was heading.
Artists of the generation of Gerhaher
and Huber have therefore grown up in
a musical world where Schubertís real
stature was properly known, where Schubert
as a whole was part of the musical landscape.
They have a familiarity with his music
which even the greatest pre-war artists
This beautifully recorded
disc comes with an excellent presentation,
texts and English translations. Amid
recurrent elegies for the death of the
classical record industry, the corpse
is putting up quite a struggle. A few
more issues like this and we will be
wondering what the fuss was about. Just
one black spot. Why no Deutsch numbers?
Lastly, may I remind
readers of Gerhaher and Huberís Schumann
disc, also on RCA Red Seal. review