Schubert: Complete Songs, Vol. 37: Schwanengesang

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Complete Songs, Vol. 37: Schwanengesang
PERFORMER: Michael Schade, John Mark Ainsley, Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano), David Pyatt (horn)
CATALOGUE NO: CDJ 33037
The 1827 songs in Vol. 36 of Hyperion’s Schubert Edition highlight the composer’s dramatic range in roles that baritone Gerald Finley portrays with ample sturdiness (‘Romanze des Richard Löwenherz’ and ‘Der Wallensteiner Lanzknecht beim Trunk’), pastoral charm (‘Jägers Liebeslied’) and, in the three songs for bass and piano (D902), Italianate operatic stage presence. Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings of the same repertoire with Gerald Moore on piano may offer interpretations with greater expressive extremes, but these elegant performances – informed by Graham Johnson’s sensitive and revelatory piano-playing – make a very strong challenge.

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Among several rarities, eloquent renderings by Juliane Banse (‘Wolke und Quelle’) and Michael Schade (‘Fröhlsches Scheiden’ and ‘Sie in jedem Liede’) discover more than mere curiosities. Meanwhile, Banse’s pure-toned soprano is at its most alluring in ‘Das Weinen’ and ‘Die Sterne’. The ensemble reveals Schubert’s lighter side in ‘Der Hochzeitsbraten’ and the Cantata for Irene Kiesewetter with engaging sparkle.

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As András Schiff shows brilliantly in his award-winning version of Schwanengesang with Peter Schreier, in songs such as ‘Kriegers Ahnung’ and ‘Frühlingssehnsucht’ his all-round pianism gives added power to the accompaniments. However, in Hyperion’s Vol. 37 (the last of the series), singers (Ainsley and Rolfe Johnson share the cycle) and pianist are ideally balanced in these songs, with beautiful touches from both underlining their common interpretative purpose. There are also added extras, including a stylish account of ‘Auf dem Strom’, a version of ‘Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe’ sung by three tenors and a performance of the rarely heard ‘Irdisches Glück’ from the Refrainlieder. A glorious conclusion to this magisterial edition. Nicholas Rast