21 Songs – An den Mond; Im Frühling; Seligkeit; Litanei auf das Fest Allerseelen; Der Zwerg; Im Abendrot; An Sylvia etc
Alice Coote (mezzo-soprano), Julius Drake (piano)
Hyperion CDA68169 67:24 mins
This recital collects 21 of Schubert’s best-loved songs in an attractive bouquet of moods. Seasoned artists Alice Coote and Julius Drake give a frequently moving account of this familiar repertoire.
There is much to enjoy here. ‘Im Frühling’ is elastic and tender. The terrifying ballads ‘Der Zwerg’ and ‘Erlkönig’ lack a little storytelling suspense; the musicians seem to reveal the brutal outcome from the start, although there are flashes of chilling violence. ‘Ständchen’, the hit number from Schwanengesang, is on the slow side, albeit delivered with a gloriously velvety legato. ‘Seligkeit’ feels a little laden, and ‘Auf dem Wasser zu singen’ could be more limpid.
Every note is delivered with white-hot sincerity in Coote’s rich-toned voice. The German betrays only an occasional anglicism in the picky listener’s ear. Drake’s piano similarly glows; he draws an exquisite sound from the instrument, the playing consistently elegant and restrained, with rare moments of prominence. I welcomed the rackety, clattering preludes to ‘Rastlose Liebe’ and ‘Der Musensohn’.
Their approach perfectly suits reflective, slow songs like ‘Abenstern’, ‘Litanei’, ‘Nacht und Träume’ and several others. By the end, listeners may long for more variety, more surprises, especially in repertoire so frequently heard. That said, they have thought carefully about the sequence, ensuring an effective alternation of moods.
A closing observation: most of the songs are split into individual tracks per verse, resulting in a cumbersome 50 tracks. No difference on a CD player, but fiddly online, and inexplicable. That aside, the recording quality is clear and warm.