Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder; plus songs by Pfitzner, Schubert and R Strauss
Matthias Goerne (baritone), Seong-Jin Cho (piano)
DG 486 0274 59:58 mins
The beautiful, burnished glow of Matthias Goerne’s voice perfectly suits this recital of late Romantic Austro-German Lieder. Perfectly partnered by Seong-Jin Cho, this recital will delight Goerne fans. Excepting the Pfitzner songs, the programme is familiar and undemanding. The unique ‘extruded’ quality of Goerne’s voice remains compelling, although we have to accept that his conspicuous breaths are now integral to his artistry, each inhalation like the inflating of powerful bellows.
Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder avoid lugubriousness (‘Schmerzen’ is especially moving). Goerne and Cho have a deep affinity for the thoughtful if slightly unvaried songs by Hans Pfitzner, whose rangy settings of tortured, heart-on-sleeve poetry offer intensely expressive melodies and imaginative piano parts. The sprawling structure of ‘Sehnsucht’ is effortlessly shaped by Cho’s sure instinct for harmony and pace. Cho is equally impressive in the rollercoaster passagework of ‘Stimme der Sehnsucht’; and the gloomy weirdness of ‘An die Mark’ (setting a fine poem by Ilse von Stach) could not be bettered by either artist.
Goerne and Cho return to familiar territory with songs by Richard Strauss which sustain the overall mood of late Romantic knife-in-breast angst and introspection. The closing ‘Im Abendrot’, a song of long companionship, nature and death, brought a lump to my throat, its huge vocal-technical demands successfully masked. The spacious acoustic matches this expansive repertoire, although the dynamic range feels a touch squeezed. The balance is expertly judged, the dense piano textures supporting but never overpowering the voice.
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