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Santa Fe Listener
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The genre of partsongs reminds me of chruch, lavender water, and heads nodding sleepily on antimacassars. Therefore I can give a different perspective from the lead reviewer's, who dotes on this form of casual home music-making. I can echo her enthusiasm for the performers, but this is mild-mannered music that Schubert wrote with his left hand. The piano parts are simple, as are the harmonies, since amateur singers were the target audience. Schubert rose to a higher level, so far as I can tell, when he wrote for male chorus. Perhaps that accounts for one song that is a masterpiece, Nachthelle, where the tenor soloist, carrying the melodic line, contemplates the night sky in a rapturous deistic ecstasy, punctuated by a climactic note of anguish at the transient nature of beauty. Every lover of Schubert lieder should regard Nachthelle as a must-listen.
Robert Tear makes for a splendid soloist in that song, and I had high hopes for Auf dem Strom, recorded three years later, in 1969. Unfortunately, the pacing is too fast and the pianist no more than ordinary, so this rapt song, one of the great productions of Schubert's last year, loses all mystery and rapture.
The third section of the program, recorded in excellent sound from 1956, features Suzanne Danco, one of Decca's vocal stars in French repertoire (although she was Belgian). Danco also sang in both of Decca's famous Mozart operas of the day, delivering an unforgettable Cherubino in Erich Kleiber's Nozze di Figaro and a very good, of somewhat over-parted Donna Anna in Krips's Don Giovanni. Opera stars all made lieder recordings back then, and Danco offers five Schubert favorites, with an alluring silvery timbre, fast vibrato, and soubrettish brightness (much like Hilde gueden during the same period).
She's a bit uninvolved in the longest song, "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen," where Gervase de Peyer is also rather laid back in the clarinet part. but the other four songs are done with intensity and great personality, the highlight being Gretche am Spinnrade, in which Danco matches the classic Schwarzkopf account on EMI, even if her pianist, one Guido Aposti, is no Edwin Fischer. So for me, this Schubertiade comes down to one partsong and four lieder, a small fraction of the 79 min. total timing but pure gold on its own.