Schubert: Lieder (Hyperion Schubert Edition Vol. 19)

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Lieder (Hyperion Schubert Edition Vol. 19)
PERFORMER: Felicity Lott (soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDJ 33019 DDD
Schubert often wrote quite eloquently about his enjoyment of and inspiration from nature, describing in letters vistas of mountains, valleys, winding rivers and the particular theme for this recording – the effect of flowers, stars, winds and breezes. From one-stanza poems to his great song cycles, this imagery from nature is a crucial motivating factor in Schubert’s musical language.

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Graham Johnson provides excellent background detail in the disc’s booklet notes. When all his research notes and commentaries are published in book form and are able to be used alongside Richard Wigmore’s Schubert: The Complete Song Texts and John Reed’s The Schubert Song Companion (now available again in paperback), we will have access to a treasure trove of Schubertian scholarship.

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Felicity Lott was destined to interpret these lovely songs. The opening ‘Nachtviolen’ is taken at an unusually slow pace and reveals a slight strain when Lott alternates between her basic focused sound and a more floated, lighter timbre. This occasional lack of consistency in her voice recurs – in ‘Der liebliche Stern’ and ‘Beim Winde’ – but overall it does not disturb the phenomenal artistry, manifest in the 20-stanza ‘Vergissmeinnicht’, which is an absolute tour de force. Lott’s vocal charm and warmth and her skilful use of words make ‘Die Blumensprache’, ‘Am See’ and many other little-heard Schubert gems on this recording delightful discoveries. The final star in the Lott/Johnson crown is their magnificent delivery of the exotic and fiendishly difficult Suleika songs. Elise McDougall