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Franz SCHUBERT (1797–1828)
Poets of Sensibility, Vol. 6
Jan Kobow (tenor); Ulrich Eisenlohr (fortepiano)
rec. Studio 2, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich, Germany, 8-12 October 2007
Sung texts and English translations can be found at
NAXOS 8.570480 [55:54]
Experience Classicsonline

1. Der Jüngling an der Quelle, D.300 [1:40]
2. Der Herbstabend, D.405 [2:33]
3. Der Entfernten, D.350 [2:23]
4. Lied  ‚Ins stille Land’ D.403 (1st version) [1:04]
5. Lied  ‚Ins stille Land’ D.403 (4th version) [1:37]
6. Fischerlied, D.351 (1st setting) [2:07]
7. Pflügerlied, D.392 [2:14]
8. Fischerlied, D.562 (2nd setting) [2:45]
9. Herbstlied ‚Bunt sind schon die Wälder’, D.502 [1:40]
10. An die Harmonie, D.394 [3:44]
11. Die Einsiedelei, D.393 (1st setting) [2:30]
12. Die Herbstnacht (‚Mit leisen Harfentönen’) D.404 [2:26]
13. Abschied von der Harfe, D.406 [2:02]
14. Die Einsiedelei, D.563 (2nd setting) [2:09]
15. Freude der Kinderjahre, D.455 [2:23]
16. Das Bild, D.155 [2:49]
17. Heimliches Lieben (An Myrtill), D.922 [4:18]
18. Gott im Frühlinge, D.448 [1:57]
19. An den Schlaf, D.447 [1:10]
20. Der gute Hirt, D.449 [3:05]
21. Die Nacht, D.358 [3:36]
22. An Chloen, D.363 [2:38]
23. Die Liebesgötter, D.446 [3:05]


Four years ago I first came across Berlin-born Jan Kobow through Andreas Spering’s superb Naxos recording of Die Schöpfung (see review). Only some months later his recording of Die schöne Müllerin (see review) arrived and I literally boiled over with enthusiasm. Both recordings were then on my list of Recordings of the Year. Hearing his Schubert disc I expressed hopes about a Winterreise with him and although he actually recorded it some time later I never got hold of it. I was so much happier when I found the present disc in my latest review parcel.

The repertoire consists of largely little known settings of unknown poets – the only standard song is Der Jüngling an der Quelle – and some of the songs are rather ordinary. But as I have said in earlier reviews of discs in this series: even little known and ‘ordinary’ Schubert usually has merit. While most of them will probably not be very frequent visitors to my CD-player they have been nice to listen to and a few will no doubt be played again.

The first fourteen songs are settings of poems by Johann Gaudenz von Salis-Seewis (1762–1834). This is the man on the cover painting. He was a Swiss nobleman who had met Goethe and Schiller and other literary greats but his own poetry was hardly on their level. Still Schubert obviously was inspired by it and some of them exist in more than one version. There are no less than four versions of Ins stille Land, the first and last of which are performed here. They differ very little but the fourth version is more melancholy in atmosphere and sung here much slower. Fischerlied is heard in two widely different settings. The earlier, D.351, is jolly and carefree and has a la-la-la refrain; the later, D.562, more elaborate and rather melismatic. Melisma is when one sings more than one note on each syllable. Die Einsiedelei is also preserved in two different settings, where the earlier, D.393, is lighter in tone the later, D.563, is darker but at the same time more lively. The more mature composer sees different things in the poem than the teenager does.

Apart from Der Jüngling an der Quelle, which deservedly is counted among the great Schubert songs, Der Entfernten, is an attractive strophic song with quite elaborate accompaniment. Abschied is dark and solemn with the fortepiano producing a much more realistic harp sound than a modern concert grand. These are possibly the finest of the Salis-Seewis settings.

Among the six settings of Johann Peter Uz (1720–1796) Die Nacht D.358 has the deepest emotions and should undoubtedly be heard more often. Die Liebesgötter is more or less a rococo pasticcio, sung and played with great enthusiasm, and the manuscript to An Chloen is damaged – the opening having only the bass line of the piano accompaniment. For the recording the musicians have tried to fill in a suitable beginning. To my ears it sounds convincing.

Of the remaining songs Heimliches Lieben to a text by Karoline Louise von Klenke (1754–1802) is a substantial piece, harmonically brave and with a dark intensity that places it on a par with Schubert’s late masterpieces. He was given the poem by his hostess during a stay in Graz in 1827 and its Deutsch number tells us that it was completed just after Winterreise.

Though the songs in themselves may be of variable interest the singing is definitely constantly on the high level I expected from Jan Kobow. Excellently accompanied on fortepiano by Ulrich Eisenlohr the readings are exquisite in an early 19th century manner. There is no breast-beating and superimposing of heavy accents. On the contrary what first strikes the listener is the superb legato, the beautiful tone and the fine sensitivity to nuance. I think it’s wrong to call them small-scale readings since that term implies – sometimes at least – facelessness. Kobow sings with a lot of face but the expressive compass is within a subtle range – there are no grimaces. Add to this his clear enunciation of the texts and his sensitive shadings of voice colour. This disc is ample proof of Jan Kobow being one of the most accomplished Lieder singers of his generation.

Göran Forsling


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