Schubert: Nacht und Träume

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Nacht und Träume; Totengräbers Heimweh; Greisengesang; Ständchen, D889; Hoffnung; An Silvia; Totengräberweise etc
PERFORMER: Matthias Goerne (baritone), Alexander Schmalcz (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902063

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The intense and intimidating presence of death is in almost every note Schubert wrote, according to the writer of the liner notes for this, the fifth volume of Matthias Goerne’s Schubert Edition. Well maybe. But Goerne himself certainly would make us believe this to be the case most of the time, so perfectly suited is his velvet baritone and faultless breath control to the evocation of enveloping physical and existential darkness, and the light of the moon.

This volume, entitled Nacht und Träume, is a natural companion to Goerne’s first volume, Sehnsucht (reviewed May 2008). This time, his accompanist is Alexander Schmalcz who cushions Goerne’s voice as it expresses hope as a type of dream (in Schiller’s ‘Hoffnung’), and inhabits an old man’s peaceful dreams of a lifetime’s experiences now internalised in ‘Greisengesang’.

Goerne compellingly exploits his bass register for the gravedigger’s desperation and fear in ‘Totengräbers Heimweh’, and vividly characterises the dichotomy between pastoral and military life in ‘Der Schäfer und der Reiter’.

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The harvest hymns and the dawn serenades of the Shakespearean ‘Ständchen’ and ‘An Silvia’ fit only obliquely into the theme of Night and Dream – though both Goerne and Schmalcz make these songs artfully muted and dreamlike. Hilary Finch