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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition - Volume 7
Im Abendrot D.799 [4:15]
Der Wanderer D.493 [5:22]
Nachtviolen D.752 [3:34]
Im Walde D.834 [5:18]
Normanns Gesang D.846 [3:06]
Der Geistertanz D.116 [2:01]
Schatzgräbers Begehr D.761 [3:25]
An den Mond D.259 [3:15]
Erlkönig D. 328 [3:43]
Am See D.746 [2:21]
Alinde D.904 [5:10]
Widerschein D.949 [4:33]
Die Forelle D.550 [1:54]
Der Fluss D.693 [5:15]
Abendröte D.690 [3:51]
Klage D.415 [3:08]
Der Strom D.565 [1:29]
Fischerweise D.881 [2:57]
Auf der Bruck D.853 [3:05]
Matthias Goerne (baritone)
Andreas Haefliger (piano)
rec. January 2012, Teldex Studio Berlin
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC 902141 [67:54]

Matthias Goerne’s selective - and brilliant - Schubert cycle continues with the present volume. This time he joins forces with Andreas Haefliger and it’s a partnership that really works. Goerne is one of the most distinguished of all lieder baritones at work today. His voice has beauty and expression in spades, with a tone and musical colour to cherish. He is perhaps not as careful or as skilful a word-painter as, say, Christian Gerhaher, but that doesn’t detract from his understanding of the text. This informs his eminently musical approach to everything he sings.
The dreamy stillness of the opening song, Im Abendrot, exemplifies the virtues of the whole disc: Goerne’s rich vocal colour makes a sound of intense beauty, accompanied by sensitive intelligence from Haefliger. There is a wonderful mood of unfulfilled and seemingly inexpressible longing inhabited in so many of these songs, such as Der Wanderer. Goerne and Haefliger bring out the best in these songs, and it is also in these that they find the best in each other; a sense of give and take informs their interpretation of both words and music. Importantly, there’s also a sense that they are always listening to and responding to each other. The sublime An den Mond, for example, sees them breathing in tandem, the piano’s undulating line complementing the singer as they evoke the song’s longing for nature and for isolation. Goerne and Haefliger also bring out the quality of ephemeral serenity in so much of this music. Songs such as Nachtviolen, for example, seem to quiver on the membrane between joy and pain, between reality and dream, between the earthly and the spiritual. Abendröte, likewise, unfolds from within itself, expanding to encompass the “single choir” that the whole universe becomes at the end of the song.
At the other extreme is the stormy petulance of Im Walde or Normans Gesang, every bit as powerful in the opposite way. Even here there is sensitivity: for example, I loved the way in which the last verse of Normans Gesang modulates effortlessly from the turbulent minor key into the optimistic major as the poet looks forward to - or at least hopes for - his wedding day. Der Fluss unfolds in one long paragraph, carried along with quiet inevitability by the unarguably purposeful piano line. Der Strom, another depiction of a river, gives an altogether more unsettling view, tumbling and furrowing as an echo of the poet’s heart. Goerne darkens his voice so convincingly at the start of this song that he is almost unrecognisable.
The narrative songs are perhaps the most convincing of all. Erlkönig crackles with excitement: the thrill of the chase rumbles through the piano while Goerne imbues the narrative with passion and intensity, depicting the three characters with admirably individualistic sound colours. Alinde, with its combination of nature painting and longing for love, is delightful as it evokes the gathering night in the grove as the poet waits all evening for Alinde, who appears at last in the final lines. This song was my favourite discovery on the disc. Die Forelle sparkles in the piano part, though the intensity of Goerne’s voice is more suited to the darker final verse than to the lighter first two.
For me, however, it’s the unstrained sunniness of the penultimate song, Fischerweise, that exemplifies so much of what is wonderful about Schubert. The poem is an idyllic depiction of the fisherman’s ways. The bouncy piano line buoys up the cheerful optimism of the fisherman as he goes about his daily business. A song like this may not have the dramatic intensity of some of the other songs on this disc, let alone something from one of the great cycles, but it’s a welcome reminder that Schubert was one of the finest melodists of all time. It’s a joy that Goerne and Haefliger have given us a recital that shows off so many facets of his artistry in such an admirably skilful way.
Simon Thompson