Schubert: Schwanengesang, D957; Herbst; Lebensmut; Auf dem Strom

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Schwanengesang, D957; Herbst; Lebensmut; Auf dem Strom
PERFORMER: Michael Volle (baritone), Ulrich Eisenlohr (piano), Sjön Scott (horn)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554663
Even before Hyperion’s Schubert Edition is complete, a rival enters: the Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition follows the composer’s precedent in grouping the songs according to their poets; it employs exclusively young German singers; and it is masterminded by the pianists Ulrich Eisenlohr and Stefan Laux.

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They go in at the deep end: Vol. 1 offers Winterreise, no less. And, as if to draw attention to the minutely revised textual detail of the state-of-the-art Bärenreiter New Schubert Edition which this series will use, both Eisenlohr and the well-groomed baritone Roman Trekel give a sharply observant, clear and uncluttered performance, sensitive to every detail of accent and inflection. If it has a fault, it is in being over-careful: both performers treat word and note with kid gloves, so that we are seldom really gripped by the artists’ intensity of engagement with the emotional impetus of the cycle, as we are with the incomparable Peter Schreier and András Schiff.

Schwanengesang, Schubert’s great swansongs, are also stronger stuff than Michael Volle seems willing to admit. His is a noble, fine-toned baritone; but these late songs really do demand greater imaginative input to reach their extremes of musical and verbal expression. Brigitte Fassbaender and Aribert Reimann look into Schubert’s heart of darkness unflinchingly.

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The first volume of Schubert’s Goethe Lieder sees bass-baritone Ulf Bästlein as a more accomplished sound-poet, tasting and scenting out both the mysteries and the wit within Goethe’s words and Schubert’s responses to them. Multiple settings of a single poem are provided where appropriate. Hilary Finch