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Franz SCHUBERT (1797 – 1828)
Anna Lucia Richter (soprano)
Gerold Huber (piano)
Matthias Schorn (clarinet)
rec. 2018, MCO Hilversum, Studio 1, The Netherlands
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
PENTATONE PTC5186722 SACD [80:58]

The art song, whether called Lied, mélodie, romans or whatever, is possibly the genre most sensitive and hard to come to terms with. The balance between words and music that Richard Strauss’s opera Capriccio discusses. “Prima la musica e poi le parole” (First the music and then the words) is the title of a Salieri opera, and of course one can listen to a beautiful song without bothering about the words. But on the other hand it is the words that are the inspiration for the composer. Today’s singer/songwriters generally produce both text and music and then they walk hand in hand, and there are examples of Lied composers who also provided the words, but as a rule it is the poem that triggers the creativity of the composer. The natural way of approaching a song or a song cycle is consequently to read the poem first, and when it is a poem in a language one isn’t fluent in, a good translation is essential. Unfortunately the situation at live recitals and on recordings is not always ideal. Quite often there are no texts at all available, and when the language is Russian, Polish, Finnish the original texts are of minimal help. The present disc is ideal. The songs are sung in German, which is a language I’m reasonably familiar with, there are good English translations – and still, when I started listening the first thing I scribbled down was “What a voice!” The next scribble read “So beautiful”.

Most of the songs are, of course, well-known and Anna Lucia Richter’s enunciation is very good, so I could treat myself to just enjoy the voice per se. And I soon found that it wasn’t just a voice, there was a temperament behind, which showed already in the second song Der Zwerg. The voice is fresh, crystal clear as spring water, innocent sounding to begin with but there is a grain of steel at hand for dramatic moments. Listen to Totengräbers Heimweh (tr. 8). Otherwise the innocent quality is just cut out for the Mignon songs, and also for Ellen’s songs from Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake. The ubiquitous Ave Maria, so often sung with majestic tone, becomes much more believable when scaled down to the intimate and youngish tone Anna Lucia Richter uses here. She actually sings “O Mutter, hör ein bittend Kind!” (Mother, hear a supplicant child!). There are a couple of rarities here. Viola, composed in 1823, is as Doris Blaich points out in the comprehensive liner notes, Schubert’s most expansive song encompassing 334 bars. The 19-verse poem is by his friend Franz von Schober and the song, which is through-composed, “is practically a bouquet of spring flowers in musical form”. At closer scrutiny there are underlying symbols but it can be enjoyed also as just a large colourful canvas painted by an inventive artist striving to expand his artistry. Extended is also Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, composed in October 1928 and thus one of Schubert’s last composition. It is more a concert aria than a song and with the soprano interacting with the clarinet and the piano it is in fact a kind of chamber music trio. The outdoor freshness of the singing is again so in tune with the music and Matthias Schorn is an ideal counterpart. The song is of course an ideal final number, even though I feel that Abschied von der Erde is an even more natural end. This is Schubert’s only melodrama and, to quote the liner notes again “It is set in F major, the same key as Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, and Schubert uses it to symbolize innocence, unspoiled nature, shepherd life, and paradisal states”. Anna Lucia Richter’s soft speaking voice is so well attuned to the words. I was deeply touched by it – as I was of the whole programme.

I will certainly return to this disc many times, and I urge readers to give it a listen. “What a voice! So beautiful” is still scribbled on my pad. But I have added “And what expressivity – with small means”.

Göran Forsling

1. An den Mond D 259 [3:17]
2. Der Zwerg D 771 [5:21]
3. An mein Herz D 860 [2:52]
4. Lied der Mignon – Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt D 877/4 [3:20]
5. Lied der Mignon – Heiß mich nicht reden D 877/2 [4:12]
6. Lied der Mignon – So lasst mich scheinen D 877/3 [3:18]
7. Heimweh D 456 [2:26]
8. Totengräbers Heimweh D 842 [6:52]
9. Viola – Blumenballade D 786 [12:57]
10. Erster Verlust D 226 [2:12]
11. Ellens Gesang – Raste Krieger D 837 [8:44]
12. Ellens Gesang – Jäger ruhe von der Jagd D 838 [3:09]
13. Ellens Gesang – Ave Maria D 839 [5:56]
14. Abschied von der Erde D 829 [3:35]
15. Der Hirt auf dem Felsen D 965 [12:26]

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