Schubert: Heliopolis: Lieder

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Heliopolis: Lieder
PERFORMER: Matthias Goerne (baritone), Ingo Metzmacher (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902035

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‘Beauteous world, where art thou?’ Schubert’s setting of Schiller’s poetic mourning for the vanished deities of Greece – ‘Die Götter Griechenlands’ – acts as a preface for the latest volume of Matthias Goerne’s Schubert series.

Its title, Heliopolis, refers to the Egyptian city of the sun, perceived with yearning from distant northern darkness; and, specifically, to Schubert’s two Mayrhofer settings.

In the first, Goerne’s baritone creeps in gentle ascent to solar serenity; in the second, his voice intensifies into a search to ‘find the right word’ amid the raging storms of life.

The entire recital glowers with this type of visionary and existential darkness. It filled Mayrhofer’s own depressive life – and is, of course, ideally suited to the voice and sensibility of Goerne himself.

Although there are moments when the angst within Schubert’s responses to Mayrhofer and the vanished gods could be more biting, Goerne has the measure of the noble declamation of these unique songs.

When it comes to the Goethe settings, Goerne excels at recreating the uncanny metaphysical stillness of ‘Meeresstille’, and of the D224 ‘Wandrers Nachtlied’. And his final Mayrhofer ‘Abschied’, taken as slowly as is humanly possible, becomes a valediction of wide spaces and eloquent silences.

The package also includes a 17-minute DVD, intercutting glimpses of the making of this recording with artist interviews.

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As any listener can verify, the partnership between Goerne and Ingo Metzmacher is, in the singer’s own words, ‘flexible, elegant and easeful’ – and it’s gripping to watch as well as to hear it at work. Hilary Finch