Schubert: Lieder: including Willkommen und Abschied; Der Wanderer; Der Winterabend; Ganymed etc

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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Lieder: including Willkommen und Abschied; Der Wanderer; Der Winterabend; Ganymed etc
PERFORMER: Werner Güra (tenor), Christoph Berner (fortepiano)


Following his fine recordings of the three great Schubert song cycles, Werner Güra now turns to a long-awaited anthology of the composer’s Lieder. In a flooded market, where to start? Well, Güra and his fortepianist, Christoph Berner, have mapped out a trajectory of the Romantic view of human emotional life: from childhood, through adolescence, to midlife crisis and, finally, to the reconciliations of maturity. At each stage, both musicians show perfect sympathy with Schubert’s own engagement, ideal empathy with each other, and a shrewd sensitivity to musical and expressive scale.

Güra’s mellifluous, lightly breathed yet meticulously inflected tenor evokes the innocence of songs like Schlummerlied and Wiegenlied – something very few 21st-century singers really know how to recreate. For Ganymed, Güra captures the tenderness of adolescent love, while Berner ensures that hoofbeats and murmuring waters become lively aural images of beating heart and pulsing blood.

When Nature turns hostile, such as in Willkommen und Abschied, vowels and consonants obey a fiercer rhythmic imperative. And there’s more yearning in the tenor’s searing high register: Schubert knew just where to place those crucial words of pain. The relative tranquillity of maturity is epitomised in Der Winterabend: a very special song whose reflections lead inexorably to those wonderful, harmonically transformed repetitions of the last line, gently touched into being by Güra and Berner.


Hilary Finch