WORKS: Complete Songs, Vol. 35: 1822-5
PERFORMER: Lynne Dawson, Geraldine McGreevy (soprano), Philip Langridge (tenor), Thomas Hampson, Maarten Koningsberger, Christopher Maltman (baritone), Neal Davies (bass), Graham Johnson (piano); London Schubert Chorale/Stephen Layton
CATALOGUE NO: CDJ 33035
Thirty-five down, two to go. Like other recent offerings in this monumental, long-evolving series, this latest disc interleaves solo songs familiar and unfamiliar with partsongs and choruses. All the items here date from the first years of Schubert’s full maturity, 1822-5. And at the centre of the recital are four well-loved settings of Rückert, including ‘Du bist die Ruh’, arguably Schubert’s most truly religious song (sung with rapt concentration and beautiful, long-arched phrasing by Lynne Dawson), the half-nostalgic, half-stoical ‘Greisengesang’, eloquently done by the bass Neal Davies, and the exquisite, harmonically evasive lovesong ‘Dass sie hier gewesen’, where Philip Langridge’s understanding and intensity of line compensate for some rawness of tone.
Elsewhere, Thomas Hampson catches the mingled defiance and bitterness of the Scott setting ‘Lied des gefangenen Jägers’; Christopher Maltman, abetted by Johnson’s imaginatively ‘orchestrated’ playing, rises magnificently to the challenge of ‘Totengräbers Heimwehe’, a song of truly apocalyptic grandeur; and soprano Geraldine McGreevy brings a gently plangent tone to the haunting, symphonically conceived ‘Schwestergruss’, one of Schubert’s supreme triumphs over a bathetic text. Light relief comes courtesy of the partsongs, most of them in gemütlich or hearty vein, though ‘Gott in der Natur’ shows the composer a master of Baroque pastiche, while ‘Gebet’ is a touching, devout hymn that rises to a beatific close. Throughout the disc, Graham Johnson’s accompaniments are typically illuminating, with numerous touches of detail glossed over by many pianists. And, as ever, his vastly comprehensive notes, amounting to no less than a book, are in a class of their own. Richard Wigmore