One of the most grown-up review sites around

52,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

Yes we are selling
Acte Prealable again!
£11 post-free

we also sell Skarbo

and Oboe Classics


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

WYASTONE releases

The Birth of Rhapsody in Blue
A superlative recreation

such a success

An outstanding performance

make acquaintance without delay

Violin Concerto
This is an impressive disc

Strong advocacy
for a British composer

Piano Music - Martin Jones
agreeably crafted

Piano Music 5CDs

Consistently fine

Rare and interesting repertoire

An excellent introduction

A Celebration on Record

An issue of importance

A splendid disc

both enlightening and rewarding
additional review


REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Lieder und Gesänge, Op. 32 [24:21]
Lieder nach Gedichte von Heinrich Heine [13:28]
Vier ernste Gesänge, Op. 121 [17:51]
Matthias Goerne (baritone)
Christoph Eschenbach (piano)
rec. Teldex Studio Berlin, April 2013 & December 2015
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902174 [55:49]

Make no mistake, this release isn’t designed to send you out whistling! The first thing that strikes you about it is the extraordinary darkness of Goerne's voice. That, coupled with the choice of repertoire (and even the cover photograph) suggest that this is not a disc whose intention is to bring light relief. The artistic rewards are great, however, and well worth investing in.

The disc culminates in the Four Serious Songs, but the opening Op. 32 cycle makes a most arresting starting point. The darkness of tone in ‘Wie rafft ich mich’ is as profound as that depicted in the poem, and Goerne and Eschenbach make something profound out of Brahms’ study of contradictory nature in ‘Nicht mehr zu dir zu gehen’. Eschenbach's depiction of the river in ‘Der Strom’ is as powerful as Goerne's existential singing, but both then increase the intensity yet further for the subsequent ‘Wehe, so willst du mich wieder’. After this almost unremittingly bleak first half, however, the second half of the cycle slips into a beautiful (though hardly relaxed) major key, and the effect is delightful. Goerne hardly alters the dark, even slightly baleful character of his voice, but Eschenbach's piano playing takes on a more gently suffused tone which I found utterly beguiling, culminating in a truly blissful account of the last song, ‘Wie bist du, mein Königin’, with Goerne achieving a magical pianissimo in the final line.

The Heine songs, though not a cycle, are given a treatment that is every bit as aristocratic. The pair of Op. 85 songs feel like a single, deeply meditative unit, and the nuancing of both the voice and piano is remarkable in the Op. 96 trilogy. ‘Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht’ feels like a journey into the soul, while ‘Es schauen die Blumen alle’ feels almost Schubertian in its equivocation of nature and love. ‘Meerfahrt’ is part Barcarolle and part horror soundtrack, with extraordinary things going on in the piano line, and Goerne responds with guttural vocal imagery that is remarkably powerful.

That trilogy alone would distinguish this disc as a true partnership, worthy of comparisons with the finest, but the Four Serious Songs make a fitting culmination. The steady tread of the first song is chilling in its evocation of the inevitability of death, worthy to stand alongside the second movement of the German Requiem, and ‘Ich wandte mich’ is profoundly meditative. ‘O Tod, wie bitter bist du’ is strangely beautiful, however, particularly in the second verse which contemplates the release the death brings to the needy, and the triumphant transcendence of ‘Wenn ich mit Menschen’ makes for a fitting culmination to not only the cycle but the whole disc. Perhaps it did find some cheer after all, all the more welcome in being so long waited for. This is a grown-up disc of grown-up repertoire, but it’s superbly done and it’s entirely worthy to stand alongside Goerne’s excellent Schubert recitals for the same label.

Simon Thompson



We are currently offering in excess of 52,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

a vibrant slice of life

stylistically assured

About Every Hill and Valley
Swedish Songs

Hallberg and Dente
interesting and most welcome

An inspired partnership
additional review

A valuable document

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger