Schubert: Schwanengesang

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Schwanengesang; Auf dem Strom; Die Sterne
PERFORMER: Mark Padmore (tenor), Paul Lewis (piano), Richard Watkins (french horn)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907520

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This is a wonderful recording, two supreme Schubertians working in perfect harmony. Odd as it might sound, I think that this disc is valuable above all for Paul Lewis’s stupendous piano playing. Not only has he the technique – no mean feat, with some of Schubert’s awkward accompaniments – but he is also, with Mitsuko Uchida, one of the greatest Schubertians of our time. He has clearly immersed himself in these songs to an impressive degree. The mood is set instantly, but never obtrusively.

Mark Padmore makes, up to a point, a strange partner. While Lewis provides strong and forthright accompaniments, Padmore has a light voice, most suitable for the fanciful or the plangent, and one occasionally senses Lewis, rightly, would liked to have unleashed more power. But perhaps that’s because this set of songs is unsuitable for a single singer, though that’s how they are invariably performed. It was the publisher’s idea, not the composer’s, that they should form a ‘cycle’ – which they don’t. The texture of some of them seems to demand a baritone: Padmore does his best as tenor.

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Schubert’s last song, Die Taubenpost (Pigeon Post), is enchantingly delivered by both artists. I wish the disc had stopped there. It proceeds to a lengthy song – a repetitious flaccid thing, ten minutes long, with horn obbligato expertly played by Richard Watkins; and then Die Sterne, a too amiable, late effort of a song. Michael Tanner