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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Geheimnis. An Franz Schubert D491 (1816) [2:00]
An Schwager Kronos D369 (1816) [2:27]
Widerschein D949 (1819-20) [3:29]
Schwanengesang D957 (1827-8) [47:16]
Abschied D475 (1816) [5:13]
Ian Bostridge (tenor), Antonio Pappano (piano)
rec. 15-17 August 2008, No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London DDD
EMI CLASSICS 2426392 [60:51]
Experience Classicsonline

The main content of this disc of Schubert lieder, Schwanengesang, is flanked by four other songs. Geheimnis is a warm and Mozartean; it sets a text of Mayrhofer. Thought to have been composed in the same year, An Schwager Kronos is a fast-paced miniature with a rhythmically strong galloping accompaniment which maintains the momentum throughout. By contrast, Widerschein is slower and more picturesque, describing the reflection of the title.

Schwanengesang, a cycle of fourteen songs, was composed at the end of Schubert’s life and contains some of his most intoxicating vocal writing. The collection comes from six songs setting texts by Heine, a further group of seven by Rellstab and a further setting by Seidl. They were sent to the publisher Tobias Haslinger after Schubert’s death. The group were published together and given their collective title probably for commercial reasons.

There are many highlights in this collection. The dark, atmospheric opening of Kreigers Ahnung demonstrates Schubert’s talent for harmony and melody combined. Frühlingssehnsücht has a beautifully flowing quality, while the highly lyrical Ständchen is performed here with wonderful colour and phrasing. In der Ferne is another dark, minor key song, which is introspective and heavy. By contrast, the upbeat and somewhat frivolous Abschied, the last of the Heine settings, comes across as almost manically hyperactive with its spiky piano accompaniment.

The simple melody of Ihr Bild is beautifully concentrated, with unisons between voice and piano providing a sonorous tone colour. Das Fischermädchen is a jaunty song evoking the sea in its rocking piano lines. Three mysterious songs follow: Die Stadt, Am Meer and Der Doppelgänger; all possess a sense of stillness and sorrow and carry weighty emotions. Die Taubenpost seems out of place, its lightness of mood being so dramatically different to what it follows. Seidl’s poem tells of the pigeon post, and Schubert’s setting takes on a more sociable, everyday life feel, bringing the listener out of the gloomy depths of some of the earlier songs.

The disc ends with Schubert’s 1816 Abschied, which is a haunting and very beautiful setting of a text by Mayrhofer.

Bostridge has clear diction throughout and gives an intimate performance which feels personal and unforced. His reading is unsentimental but nevertheless expressive with variations of tone colour and stylish phrasing. The dynamic range is contained and controlled, while Pappano is excellent, with a clear piano sound which never dominates the voice but supports effectively.

Carla Rees

see also review by Göran Forsling  

Masterwork Index: all reviews of Schwanengesang



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