LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: An die ferne Geliebte, and other Lieder; Bagatelles Op. 126
PERFORMER: Werner Güra (tenor), Christopher Berner (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902217
Werner Güra and Christoph Berner take us beguilingly into the very heart and mind of Beethoven. Their programme has threefold strength: it is framed, illuminatingly, by Beethoven’s early and late settings of An die Hoffnung; it places the unique and pioneering An die ferne Geliebte centrally, in the context of his individual Lieder; and it interleaves the songs with the Op. 126 Bagatelles, Beethoven’s final piano pieces, to revelatory effect. Güra’s noble and beautifully enunciated tenor recreates the sheer energy and spiritual struggle within the microcosm of Beethoven’s songs. He brings real stature to Goethe’s Wonne der Wehmut, and finds a dignity of pacing for An die ferne Geliebte which infuses the work with a rare sense of wonder. Güra, like Beethoven, seems to be standing on holy ground as he whispers a phrase such as, ‘Would I were there!’, and as song and longing become shared at the climax of the song-cycle.
Berner’s 1847 Streicher fortepiano captures well the clarity and the tonal depths of Beethoven’s keyboard writing. And the artfully placed Bagatelles, fearlessly played, become both responses to and a spiritual fine-tuning for our reception of the songs. When the third follows An die ferne Geliebte, it seems both a natural extension of its musical journey, and a meditation upon it. Hilary Finch