Beethoven: Lieder

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Lieder
PERFORMER: Peter Schreier (tenor)András Schiff (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 444 817-2 DDD
The partnership of Peter Schreier and András Schiff has produced remarkable recorded performances of Schubert’s song cycles, particularly of Winterreise; and now these two wise musicians turn to one of the first ever great Romantic song cycles, Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte. The pacing within and between these songs, each linked by a piano interlude, can make, or more often mar, a performance: the most sensitive personal tuning to the fugitive movement of cloud, wind, water and sighs, as recreated in Beethoven’s music, is required. As the first song has it, Schreier and Schiff do indeed make ‘time and space yield to the sound of song’, as the close-tracking piano accompaniment follows every shifting timbre of the voice and, in a short crescendo, underlines an often crudely handled ending vividly and movingly.

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Schreier and Schiff also try their hand at no fewer than 17 Beethoven songs which sadly prove too daunting for many of the younger generation of singers. Schreier, in a recording so intimate that the listener feels as if in the front row of a recital room, tastes the earth, sun and bliss of the month of May (‘Mailied’) with every sense. And the two musicians do reverent justice both to Beethoven’s long, existential questioning in ‘An die Hoffnung’ (To Hope) and to the wonderfully characteristic musical striving in the visionary ‘Abendlied’. Hilary Finch