Schubert: Schwanengesang; Lieder to texts by Goethe; Drei Gesänge des Harfners

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LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
WORKS: Schwanengesang; Lieder to texts by Goethe; Drei Gesänge des Harfners
PERFORMER: Peter Schreier (tenor); András Schiff (piano)
This concert celebrated the closing night of the Hall’s 90th anniversary season in July 1991; and Schreier’s and Schiff’s recital certainly comes with a palpable sense of occasion.With so many remarkable recordings of Schwanengesang in the catalogue, the only really meaningful comparison here is with Schreier’s 1989 Vienna recording with Schiff. This shows his tenor more smoothly and effortlessly integrated through its registers; but without the warmth, the immediacy and the sheer sense of risk, which characterizes this live performance. Schiff’s playing, too, is still more vivid, animating so many inner voices in the piano writing.


The Wigmore Schwanengesang, unlike the Vienna recording, presents the songs in exactly the original published order; and the exquisite ‘Taubenpost’, which Schubert’s publisher threw in for good measure, is absent. But this is one of the darkest, slowest Schwanengesangs on disc: there is a unique menace in the final ‘Gute Nacht’ of ‘Kriegers Ahnung’; and ‘In der Ferne’ gives full, long weight to those six slow pulses within the last word of each line. Both ‘Am Meer’ and ‘Der Doppelgänger’ are every bit as slow as those tours de force by Matthias Goerne with Alfred Brendel. It’s significant that these, two of the greatest Schwanengesangs on disc, were both recorded live at the Wigmore Hall. Goerne does, indeed, remain my benchmark – though it’s tricky to score points between two highly individual performances, in two different vocal registers. Schreier’s recital also offers consummate performances of Schubert’s Goethe settings – and two perfectly chosen encores. Hilary Finch