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Franz SCHUBERT (1797–1828)
Romantic Poets - Volume 1
1. Die junge Nonne, D828 [4:45]
2. Die Liebe hat gelogen, D751 [2:28]
3. Frühlingsglaube, D686 [3:35]
4. Morgenlied, D685 [3:41]
Elf Lieder aus dem Gedichtzyklus “Abendröte” (Schlegel) [29:31]
5. Abendröte, d690 [3:40]
6. Der Schmetterling, D633 [1:25]
7. Das Mädchen, D652 [1:57]
8. Der Knabe, D692 [2:01]
9. Die Rose, D745 [3:05]
10. Der Wanderer, D649 [2:25]
11. Die Berge, D634 [2:04]
12. Der Fluss, D 693[4:48]
13. Die Vögel, D691 [1:04]
14. Die Sterne (Du staunest o Mensch), D684 [3:54]
15. Die Gebüsche, D646 [3:08]
Vier Lieder, Op. 59
16. Du liebst mich nicht, D756 [3:22]
17. Dass sie hier gewesen, D775 [3:27]
18. Du bist die Ruh, D776 [3:58]
19. Lachen und Weinen, D777 [1:39]
20. Ariette (from ”Rosamunde”), D797 [3:32]
Julia Borchert (soprano), Ulrich Eisenlohr (piano)
rec. DRS, Zürich, Switzerland, 5-8 May 2004
Sung texts and English translations at:
NAXOS 8.554797 [59:58]

The Naxos “Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition” has now reached volumes 23 (review coming before long) and 24. Ulrich Eisenlohr, the master-mind behind the project and pianist on most of the issues, is probably already beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The last disc should be issued sometime next year.

Along the way we have encountered a number of good German speaking singers, some of whom have had very successful careers, and it is always interesting to listen to new voices. I haven’t heard all the discs in the series so far but have more than two thirds of them and my general impression is that Naxos have been luckier with their male singers than their female.

Julia Borchert who leads the current issue has distinguished herself on a number of German stages in Mozart roles as well as Sophie in Rosenkavalier and Lucia di Lammermoor. Since 2004 she has appeared at the Bayreuth festival as the First Flower Maiden in Parsifal. A lyrical voice no doubt but the first song on this disc, the initially stormy Die junge Nonne, made me temporarily revise this view. Here was a bright-toned, expressive voice with a somewhat edgy vibrato and so powerful was she that she even fought a winning battle with Eisenlohr’s thunderous chords. A voice ready for Tosca, maybe even Elsa and Elisabeth, I thought, and felt a bit down-hearted since so young a voice shouldn’t be taking on such heavy things. Thrilling it certainly was, but for how long? It soon turned out that she had a fine legato and the capacity scale things down to a lovely pianissimo with beautiful tone. In Frühlingsglaube she adopted a girlish sound and the lively Morgenlied was sung with liberating innocence.

So many discs in this series have presented “unknown” songs by Schubert. I say ‘unknown’ in the sense in relation to the very limited range of what we hear in recitals and on many Schubert programmes on record. These are often chosen from fifty or so standard songs. Here we have several from that select company: the first three, three of the four songs from Op. 59 (tr. 17-19), the Rosamunde romance and Der Schmetterling from the cycle “Abendröte”.

When a young aspiring singer is set against competition from some of the great names there is a great risk that she comes out second best. However I very soon warmed to her freshness and lyrical intimacy and enjoyed large parts of this disc. I couldn’t help noticing some patches of uneven voice production and some less than elegant phrasing. When she increased the pressure on the voice for dramatic power, as in Du liebst mich nicht (tr. 16) the tone went hard and acidulous with the vibrato widened uncomfortably. Luckily this didn’t happen too often and her lyrical singing more than compensated for the unattractive numbers.

If I wanted to introduce Julia Borchert to someone in the best possible light I would play Der Fluss (tr. 12) for the wonderful legato singing. It also happens to include one of Schubert’s great melodies with the piano accompaniment’s broken chords illustrating the flowing water. I would also pick Die Rose (tr. 9) for its beautiful restraint, and from Op. 59 both Dass sie hier gewesen and Du bist die Ruh, the latter one of Schubert’s greatest songs.

A few words about Friedrich Schlegel’s cycle “Abendröte”: It consists of 22 poems, of which Schubert set only 11. He did this at various times between 1819 and 1823, so it seems that he had no intention to create a real song-cycle of the Schöne Müllerin or Winterreise kind. Nevertheless there is a feeling of unity when hearing them in sequence and it is a pity that most of them are rarely heard. Elisabeth Schumann made a legendary recording of Der Schmetterling and that is a version that is hard to beat. Ms Borchert makes a good stab at it. The song is charming also through the inventive piano part which graphically describes the butterfly fluttering from flower to flower. It should also be pointed out that in Die Berge (tr. 11) Borchert cleverly adopts a darker tone to match the heavy piano accompaniment.

As I have already intimated there is a lot to admire in this programme and readers who have been following this series should acquire this disc too. There is so much sensitive phrasing and Julia Borchert’s soft singing is truly beautiful and expressive. Texts and translations have to be downloaded from the Naxos website but Ulrich Eisenlohr’s insightful notes in the booklet are a valuable read. The recording can’t be faulted.

Göran Forsling 



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