Thursday, February 14, 2013

In Review--Schubert's Lament

Matthias Goerne (Baritone)
Andreas Haefliger (Piano)
Schubert Erlkönig
Harmonia Mundi

Celebrated baritone Matthias Goerne brings us number 7 of a Schubert series, Erlkönig (title comes from a Goethe poem), a collection of songs set to Romantic Era poetry.  If I had only read the liner notes, I would have assumed that the recording only contains darker material.  The titular song indeed tells a dark supernatural tale but at least on this recording it only has one voice, instead of the original three from Schubert’s time (a man, his son, and a phantom).  However, diverse sentiments from a Scottish warrior bidding farewell to his distant love while on the battlefield (Norman Love), and spiritual musings (By the Lake) and familial love described in nature-based metaphors (Sunset) also appear in the 19 tracks.

Goerne’s operatic talent comes through on the seductive Fisherman’s Song (which also resembles Mozart’s mirthful arias).  The weight of the duo rests on Goerne’s shoulders since the purpose of the songs is to convey emotions and poetic interpretations, which the German baritone does well.  However, this isn’t to say that Andreas Haefliger’s piano merely acts as a backdrop.  Haefliger’s piano gallops along on the love song At the Bruck, portrays chilling dynamics on the titular song, performs flowing arpeggios on By the Lake (which feels hymn-like), and it skips playfully on The Trout.  Still, I wouldn’t mind hearing the pianist in a concerto or sonata setting.

When I listen to Schubert’s songs, it’s hard not to think about the composer’s life. His contemporaries under appreciated his music during this time, and he died at a young age unrecognized for his music.  A story in the liner notes reflects on the song Erlkön, which Schubert sent to the German poet Goethe, who ignored Schubert’s song setting until a friend played the song for him, two years before the poet’s death. And even then he didn’t praise the song.  Schubert represents a musician who composed and performed music because it flowed out of him and he did so with great earnest and hope.  Even more tragic than the death of a young musician, is the death of a musician whose work is discovered posthumously.

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