LABELS: Teldec Das Alte Werk
PERFORMER: Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Andreas Staier (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-21473-2
It should never be forgotten that the songs of Schubert rose from a politically claustrophobic Vienna in which the repressive policies of a post-Napoleonic regime concentrated the minds, imaginations and artistic solidarity of writers and musicians. It drove one Nikolaus, Baron von Krufft, a loyal civil servant by day, to compensate by composing all night long. By the age of 39 he had burnt himself out; and the songs that are his legacy are all too little known today. Christoph Prégardien’s tenor and Andreas Staier’s Viennese fortepiano capture exactly their fragile and melancholy ardour, from the expansive Schiller setting ‘Der Abend’ to the cry of idealistic humanism which is ‘Lebenslied’.
A group of ten Heine settings, called The Bard’s Journey, reveal the more muscular and confident writing of Schubert’s friend Franz Paul Lachner: these songs of sirens, knights and disturbing dream-visions include two better known ones from Schumann’s Dichterliebe. Lachner’s is not yet a song cycle proper: it was left to Beethoven to lead the way in his An die ferne Geliebte. Gently hand-tinted by the fortepiano’s shifting registers, this performance restores a real sense of expressive scale to the work. And throughout this revelatory disc, Prégardien’s enunciation and Staier’s unerring sense of style are close-focused in a clear, immediately engaging recording. Hilary Finch