Schubert: Schiller Lieder, Vol. 1

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Schiller Lieder, Vol. 1
PERFORMER: Martin Bruns (baritone), Ulrich Eisenlohr (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554740
Schiller’s lofty, often moralising verses – so different from the sensuous immediacy of Goethe – rarely inspired Schubert to his best. And, with the possible exception of the jolly ‘Dithyrambe’, none of the songs here crops up frequently in recitals. Most of them are multi-sectioned cantatas and ballads in the composer’s most public vein, long on rhetoric, short on Schubertian poetry. Launching the programme is by far the longest of all Schubert’s songs, the 28-minute melodrama Der Taucher (sung here in its revised version), in effect a two-man opera, with the piano’s valiant efforts to evoke a Wagnerian orchestra often sounding like silent movie music. For all its crudeness, Der Taucher certainly has its gripping and prophetic moments. But the most memorable songs here are those that tap a more personal lyrical vein: the plangent, yearning ‘Der Jüngling am Bache’ and the two ‘Laura’ songs, with their tender bel canto melodies. Some constricted high notes apart, the Swiss baritone Martin Bruns has a pleasing, tenorish voice which he varies sensitively. He characterises eagerly in the more extrovert and dramatic numbers – including Der Taucher; and while his legato isn’t always ideally smooth and ‘bound’ (compare Fischer-Dieskau in these songs), he finds a honeyed soft tone for, say, ‘Laura am Klavier’. Ulrich Eisenlohr is a supportive, positive partner, though as usual with this series the piano is backwardly and rather clangorously recorded. Richard Wigmore

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