The Naxos Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition is an ambitious project to record all of Schubert’s over seven hundred songs, grouped, as per Schubert’s own original publishing plans, according to poets, circles of writers and literary movements.
This, the thirty-second disc in the project, is the first of the set of part-songs, performed by top young German lieder singers of the day. The accompanist, Ulrich Eisenlohr, is also the Artistic Advisor of the project, and chose the singers.
The disc opens with the jolly Die Geselligkeit -“Fellowship” - here given a suitably lively and vivacious performance. It is followed by Nun lasst uns den Leib begraben - “Now let us bury the body” - the performers perfectly conveying the subdued, hushed and sombre atmosphere of the text. The simple but moving Easter chorale, Osterlied - “Jesus Christ, our Saviour” is followed by the buoyant hymn, Gott der Weltschopfer - “God, the Creator of the World”, and then the dramatic Gott im Ungewitter - “God in the Storm” - these two latter setting words by Franconian poets. Schiller’s Hymne an den Unendlichen - “Hymn to God the Infinite” portrays the discrepancy between the omnipotence of the Almighty and man’s insignificance. Schubert provides an aptly dramatic setting of this, here beautifully performed with searing intensity and great insight. The gorgeous and reflective version of Das Abendrot - “Sunset” makes a light and pleasant juxtaposition to the previous song. The ensuing Viel tausend Sterne prangen - “May a thousand stars shine out” - is likely to be Schubert’s first vocal quartet - not that one would think so from its consummate craftsmanship.
Der Hochzeitsbraten - “The Wedding Roast” - the longest work on the disc - is described in the excellent and informative notes as a “a theatrical mini-opera” and was presented in a staged performance the year before Schubert’s death. It is a work full of comedy, innuendo and wit, and the singers here capture the drama of the work well, even if this is not the most convincing and accomplished rendition that I have encountered.
The other substantial piece on the disc is Gebet - “Prayer”. This was composed for Count Esterhazy’s family and a friend to perform when Schubert was staying with them as tutor to the Count’s two daughters. The Countess herself had asked Schubert at a breakfast to set Fouquet’s poem - one of her favourites, and Schubert obliged with a setting that gave each voice (the Count, Countess, eldest daughter and friend) a suitably characteristic part (the youngest daughter, a talented pianist, accompanied). I am not entirely convinced by the cast list in this particular song - the daughter’s role is here taken by Sibylla Rubens, who has a rather heavy, dramatic and mature voice - possibly too much so? The mother’s role, sung by Regina Jakobi, however, is perfect, and the two male voices also work well.
The disc concludes with the celebratory Der Tanz - “The Dance”, performed with a delightfully light touch from pianist Ulrich Eisenlohr, and an appropriately joyful atmosphere from the singers.
It is a pity that the notes don’t include lyrics - the only things missing from this excellent disc.
Schubert Lieder Edition review page