Schubert: Lieder Year by Year
This multi-voiced recital, presenting one song from each year of Schubert’s composing career from 1811 to 1828, could be considered a flyer for a remarkable project to be undertaken this year by the Oxford Lieder Festival: the performance of all Schubert’s songs. And the disc turns out to be valuable more for its thumbnail chronological survey than for its performances. Did you know that one of the first songs Schubert wrote, at the age of 14, was a setting of Francis Quarles? Was this eccentric booklet proofread? In fact, the poet of ‘Der Vatermörder’ was Gottlieb Conrad Pfeffel – and the tenor Daniel Norman sings this histrionic ballad with aptly wild-voiced hysteria. Anna Huntley’s vibrato-heavy mezzo is assigned to ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’, the representative song for the important year 1814; and that wonder-year of song, 1815, is celebrated by Norman’s slightly underwhelming ‘Erlkönig’.
Mary Bevan’s soprano brings the warm scents and breezes of spring to ‘Lob der Tränen’ (1818), and the vernal tenor of James Gilchrist gives sweet, if very slow, performances of ‘Frühlingsglaube’ (1820) and ‘Im Frühling’ (1826). Best of all is the cultivated, supple and stable tenor of Benjamin Hulett in ‘Abendstern’ (1824) – and, throughout, the sympathetic piano playing of Sholto Kynoch. A great pity Hulett was given just one song.