Schubert: Lieder

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WORKS: Lieder
PERFORMER: Christoph Genz (tenor), Wolfram Rieger (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554796
Many of the poems here, by Schubert’s contemporaries Karl von Leitner and Johann Gabriel Seidl, evince a snug (smug?) Biedermeier contentment. Time and again, though, Schubert transcends the saccharine verses to produce songs of hypnotic enchantment such as ‘Der Winterabend’, ‘Das Zügenglöcklein’ and the ever-popular ‘Wiegenlied’; while to jolly things up we have numbers like the drinking song ‘Der Wallensteiner Lanzknecht beim Trunk’ and the alfresco love song ‘Bei dir allein’. Christoph Genz fields a slender, gently plangent tenor, limited in colour (and apt to tighten under pressure) but always deployed with taste and skill. In ‘Der Wanderer an den Mond’ he makes a vivid contrast between minor-key stoicism and the visionary serenity of the major-key close; he finds a surprising ardour for ‘Bei dir allein’ and, with easily flowing tempi, he is tender without sentimentality in ‘Das Zügenglöcklein’ and ‘Am Fenster’. At times – say, in a brisk, unmagical ‘Winterabend’ (compare Fischer-Dieskau on DG or Margaret Price on Hyperion here) – Genz can seem relatively plain and prosaic. And in ‘Die Sterne’ (where the stars positively frolic) and ‘Drang in die Ferne’, he emphasises the music’s surface brightness and energy at the expense of its more reflective undertones. Few revelations here, then. But if you want to get to know some marvellous late Schubert songs for minimal outlay, Genz’s intelligent, personable performances, sympathetically accompanied by Wolfram Rieger, won’t disappoint. Naxos’s bathroomy acoustic (familiar litany) is hardly ideal, though my ears quickly adjusted. Richard Wigmore