Schubert: An die Musik: Lieder

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: DG
WORKS: An die Musik: Lieder
PERFORMER: Bryn Terfel (baritone)Malcolm Martineau (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 445 294-2 DDD
Bryn Terfel’s Schubert Schwanengesang on the Welsh label Sain made lieder-fanciers Europe-wide sit up and listen: now he celebrates his new contract with DG in a popular selection of Schubert songs early and late, dark and light. Terfel’s enthusiasm for the repertoire and his eagerness to communicate it are always uppermost in both live and recorded performances. Here he can recreate the terror of the cycles of eternity in ‘Gruppe aus dem Tartarus’ as tellingly as he can control the murmuring movement of line in ‘Litanei’. But that strange somewhere in between – the elusiveness of a song like ‘Lachen und Weinen’ or, indeed, the overtly dramatic ‘Erlkönig’ – still sometimes eludes him.

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A similarly wide-ranging choice of Schubert is offered by the gentler, more finely cultivated baritone of Simon Keenlyside. There isn’t the frisson of terror in his vision of Tartarus, yet he waits and listens a little longer before leaping in, and this pays dividends in the structuring of longer, more epic songs. Miniatures like ‘Heidenröslein’ and ‘Im Haine’ are sung with sleight of hand – and Richard Wigmore’s clean, clear translations and notes are a valuable bonus.

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As part of an ongoing series, Edith Mathis’s Schubert programme, Vol. 21 in the Hyperion Schubert Edition, selects less frequently heard Schubert, each song nurtured, as ever, by Graham Johnson’s lively verbal and musical notes. The year is 1817-18, and rarities like Goethe’s tiny ‘Schweizerlied’, the farewell song in which Schubert, uniquely, wrote his own words, and the strange recitative from St John’s Gospel (D607) cluster round favourites such as ‘An die Musik’ and ‘Die Forelle’. Mathis sings them all with more free and heartfelt instinct than either Terfel or Keenlyside. Hilary Finch