Schubert: Complete Songs, Vols 33 & 34

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Complete Songs, Vols 33 & 34
PERFORMER: Marie McLaughlin, Lorna Anderson, Lynne Dawson, Patricia Rozario (soprano), Ann Murray, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Marjana Lipovšek (mezzo-soprano), Philip Langridge, Daniel Norman, Adrian Thompson, Martyn Hill, Michael Schade (tenor), Maarten Koningsberger, S
CATALOGUE NO: CDJ 33033, 33034
With the end of the Hyperion Schubert Edition now in view, these two volumes are in part mopping-up operations, accommodating items that got squeezed out of earlier releases. Several of the early Metastasio settings in Vol. 33 are no more than fluent exercises in the bel canto style, though at least one, ‘Son fra l’onde’, with its turbulent piano writing and sinewy vocal line, has a foretaste of greater things to come. But as ever in this revelatory series, there are serendipitous discoveries: ‘Klaglied’, whose loneliness and pathos are touchingly caught by Marie McLaughlin; the yearning nocturne ‘Geisternahe’, beautifully done by Philip Langridge; or the scena fragment ‘Lebenstraum’, probably Schubert’s earliest surviving music. Stephen Varcoe, with his soft-grained lyric baritone, delivers this sympathetically, and brings an insouciant touch to the jaunty, Papageno-ish gravedigger’s song ‘Totengraberlied’. Elsewhere, Ann Murray is involved, if a trifle hard-edged, in the Metastasio settings; and, as usual, the solo items are leavened with a smattering of partsongs (including a typically jolly Biedermeier drinking song) and choruses.

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A couple of the partsongs on Vol. 34, spanning the years 1817-21, also reveal the convivial, gemütlich Schubert of popular myth. But the solo numbers here include such visionary masterpieces as ‘Prometheus’ (a searching performance from Simon Keenlyside) and the majestic, almost Wagnerian ‘Grenzen der Menschheit’, to which the bass Neal Davies brings a hieratic solemnity and concentration. Other highlights include the haunting (and underrated) Mayrhofer setting ‘Atys’, eloquently sung by Thomas Hampson, Matthias Goerne’s mesmeric intensity in ‘Die gefangenen Sänger’, and the tangy mezzo of Marjana Lipovšek in ‘Das Mädchen’, a gently poignant song of unrequited love. One or two of the other solo contributions are less alluring. But this disc, especially, is a must for any serious Schubert collector, its pleasures enhanced by Graham Johnson’s observant accompaniments and his copious notes, dazzling as ever in their erudition, wit and range of allusion.