Schubert: Der Liedler; Lieder

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LABELS: Challenge
WORKS: Der Liedler; Lieder
PERFORMER: Robert Holl (bass-baritone), Rudolf Jansen (piano)
Melancholy, alienation and masochistic death-longing are the keynotes of this recital, built around settings of poems by members of Schubert’s own circle. At the centre is the 17-minute ballad ‘Der Liedler’, a naive tale of chivalrous derring-do, melodramatic and fussily episodic yet redeemed by the young Schubert’s harmonic boldness and lyrical tenderness. Robert Holl is at his best here. His grave, philosophical bass-baritone can be a shade woofy, but, abetted by the excellent Rudolf Jansen, he brings a real authority and conviction to the ballad, and softens his tone movingly for the final lament. Elsewhere Holl excels in gloom and solemnity; and he is imposing in, say, the declamatory sections of ‘Der zürnenden Diana’. But wonder, radiance and ecstasy do not fall easily within his orbit – a problem compounded by some lugubrious tempi. In ‘Der zürnenden Diana’, Holl’s tone remains sombre even when the doomed Endymion recalls his first blissful glimpse of the bathing goddess. ‘Atys’, another tale of ill-fated youth, is deeply felt but lacks the restlessness and impetuosity caught by the likes of Fischer-Dieskau (DG) and Thomas Hampson (Hyperion). And in ‘Todesmusik’, Holl captures the funereal atmosphere but not the transfiguration of the final page. Least convincing of all is the last item, a gluily sentimental reading of ‘An die Musik’, which suffers particularly from Holl’s recurrent tendency to swell into individual notes rather than sing a true legato line. Richard Wigmore