Choral works by Brahms Performed by Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach

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COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms
WORKS: Vier ernste Gesänge; Lieder und Gesänge, Op. 32; Lieder, Op. 85 Nos 1 & 2; Op. 96 Nos 1, 3 & 4
PERFORMER: Matthias Goerne (baritone), Christoph Eschenbach (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902174

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Matthias Goerne’s Brahms recital includes two complete sets of songs – Op. 32, to texts by Daumer and Platen, and his penultimate opus, Four Serious Songs. In addition there are the Heine settings only – five in all – from his Op. 85 and Op. 96. Goerne remains a fine Lieder singer, even if he lacks the lyrical flow and range of colour of some of the very greatest exponents of the genre. He shows a careful attention to text, though there’s also a tendency to over-emphasis and the voice occasionally sounds a touch frayed (in ‘Der Strom, der neben mir verrauschte’, for instance). The powerful ‘Du sprichst, dass ich mich täuschte’ has effortful moments, while Goerne’s intakes of breath are audibly prominent.

He finds a contemplative depth for the Four Serious Songs, however, with the sorrow and tenderness of the second beautifully suggested. Here, though, Christoph Eschenbach’s accompanying sounds clipped, with insubstantial tone. Elsewhere his pianism remains impressive, technically adept if also a little fierce in ‘Meerfahrt’.

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There’s a slight inconsistency to the acoustic between the recording sessions in April 2013 and December 2015, which feels more intimate at times than at others. It’s an uneven collection, though the best – the dreamy ‘Wie bist du, meine Königin’ and the expansive ‘So stehn wir, ich und meine Weide’ – is very good. George Hall