Schubert Schwanegesang

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COMPOSERS: Franz Schubert
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert Schwanegesang
WORKS: Schwanegesang; Piano Sonata in B flat, D960
PERFORMER: Matthius Goerne (baritone); Christoph Eschenbach (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC902139/40

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Matthias Goerne is showing an increasing tendency to capitalise on what he does best, exploiting his superb breath control in singing of hushed and seamless legato. In earlier volumes of this Schubert Edition, this has occasionally proved just a little too much of a good thing. But in this, the sixth volume of the series, both he and his accompanist Christoph Eschenbach are on top form in what is an outstanding contribution to the Schwanengesang catalogue.

The first song, ‘Liebesbotschaft’, seems indeed to grow out of those legendary Goerne sighs and whispers, in perfect arcs of phrasing, and with the subtlest of ebbings and flowings in Eschenbach’s aquaeous playing. It’s no surprise, then, that they add ‘Herbst’, a Rellstab song
of autumnal melancholy, and end with a more than usually pensive ‘Die Taubenpost’.

Goerne has both the breath control and the will to give full time and space to the long, long last lines of ‘In die Ferne’, and to bring to them a sense of dark despair as well as longing. He is also able and willing to dare extremes of pacing and dynamics in a spectral ‘Ihr Bild’ whose last-minute crescendo shifts the performance from mesmeric pathos to anguish. A similar sudden anguish rages through the ending of ‘Die Stadt’. And the slowest, quietest performance of  ‘Der Doppelgänger’ you’re ever likely to hear produces a chilling finale.

Restrained tempos also characterise Eschenbach’s mellow and deeply-pondered performance of Schubert’s swansong of a Piano Sonata, the D960 in B flat major,
in a bonus free CD.

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Hilary Finch