Schubert: Schwanengesang D957; 5 Lieder

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Schwanengesang D957; 5 Lieder
PERFORMER: Andreas Schmidt (baritone), Rudolf Jansen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 437 536-2 DDD
To record the Schwanengesang, the 14 songs Schubert composed in a single swansong burst of creative energy shortly before his death, is a major marker-post in any singer’s career. Andreas Schmidt carries it off with distinction and some degree of enterprise. He omits ‘Die Taubenpost’ (The Pigeon-post), considered by many to be the odd song out, on the grounds that it was written separately anyway; and he complements the remaining seven Rellstab and six Heine settings with five by von Leitner, another poet with whom Schubert came into full contact in the last years of his life.

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Each one, whether it’s a reflection on a child’s cradle, thoughts on a winter evening or the hypnotic movement of water and stars, gives a sense of being suspended between one life and another. Their introspective quality is ideally suited to Schmidt’s warm, supple baritone and thoughtful musicianship.

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The voice has never sounded better. As he continues into Schwanengesang itself, he is still, it seems, in a dream-world. If Schmidt doesn’t quite bring that edge of chill to ‘Kriegers Ahnung’ (The Warrior’s Foreboding), that feverish ardour to the end of ‘Frühlingssehnsucht’ (Longing for Spring), and if he fails quite to take Heine’s ‘Der Doppelgänger’ (The Ghostly Double) by the throat,then Rudolf Jansen makes good the shortfall in his vividly detailed and dramatic piano playing. Hilary Finch