Schumann; Dicheterliebe / Liederkreis; Matthias Goerne / Ashkenazy
I had to join in this discussion! I came rather late to Goerne's singing, this being only the second disc of his that I heard, and my impression was of a ravishingly beautiful voice overwhelmed by raucous, percussive, at times downright amateurish playing. I studied "Dichterliebe" as part of A level music, and I can remember playing parts of it just as Ashkenazy does here - without tenderness, and without any special feeling for the rise and fall of Schumann's phrases.
I would love to ask Matthias Goerne why it is that he shops around for pianists so much, so early on in his career - does he feel that only the greatest pianists, already established as soloists, are good enough to play for him? Or is it simply that he is so wonderful (and, of course, he is) that pianists are queueing up to accompany him, and he, flattered, just takes them on? Perhaps it is simply the fact that there is just no pianist who can equal Goerne's singing - what a pity that there is no one around now to match Gerald Moore's poetic way of touching the piano - a way which would uniquely echo Goerne's own seriousness and sensitivity.
Listening to this voice, and loving it as I do, I have to simply absent myself mentally when the piano takes over - difficult, but if you like what Goerne does with the songs then there is no option. Fischer-Dieskau is wonderful in his own way but I don't find his voice as beguiling as Goerne's, at least not in this music, and whilst Ian Bostridge has many fine moments I don't care for his sometimes only-approximate German and his seeming desire to create the impression that he's singing this music for the first time.
Goerne, on the other hand, I find totally captivating; he conveys the sheer astonishment of joy in the first song of "Dichterliebe" with his slight, aching pressure on the words "wünderschönen" and "sprangen," and manages to make "Herze" sound as though only this poet has written of such a thing, and only this singer can know how it truly feels, yet without seeming to put excess strain on the individual words. In "Wenn Ich in deine Augen sehe" his every word is masterly - "...ich küsse deinen Mund," the crucial "Ganz und Gar gesund" and "himmelslust" are perfectly judged, the last just lingering long enough on the final syllable, and his "Ich liebe dich" is mesmerizing in its pathos.
I have always thought that "Ich hab' Im Traum Geweinet" was the true test of a singer (and pianist) in this cycle, and so it proves here. Goerne sings this poignant song with fervour as well as lyrical ease, making dramatic contrasts between the touching "Mir träumt du verliessest mich" and the tremendous "...und noch immer strömt meine tranenflut." Even Ashkenazy seems to have been galvanized by the singer's depth of commitment here - this is one of the few moments during this cycle when I was not tempted to snort "I played it like this when I was 18!"
I suppose the most -loved part of this cycle is the penultimate song's last verse, which shows Goerne at his best; without over - acting, he delineates all the pathos of "Ach, könnt ich dorthin kommen ..." and demonstrates just how to give enough pressure on words such as "selig", and just enough weight to phrases such as "Ach, jenes Land der Wonne..." so as to wring our hearts without wringing his hands.
And that's just "Dichterliebe..." I found "Liederkreis" equally compelling, especially in "Ich wandelte unter den Bäumen" and the final song, in which those telling phrases "du süsses, süsses Lieb' in fernem land" and "...und flüstern mit wehmut und Liebeshauch" are sung with incomparable warmth and nobility of line. I cannot understand the reviewer who so disliked this singer - he should go back to him again, as I did after the first time around!