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This review is from: Franz Schubert: Schwanengesang, Sonata D.960 (Schubert Edition Vol.6) (Audio CD)
The latest instalment of Matthias Goerne's complete Schubert Lieder is a gloriously romantic affair. His luscious timbre and Christoph Eschenbach's generous accompaniments make for a luxurious Schwanengesang. If occasionally the performance is too wholesome - falling short of the eerie fragility of Goerne's live recording with Brendel - it nonetheless provides a glorious listening experience.
Schwanengesang is not so much a song cycle as an album of fragmented memories. The legato whisper of 'Liebesbotschaft' and the pawing horses of 'Abschied' hark back to Die schöne Müllerin. Here, Eschenbach is gentle and fleet, with Goerne's unperturbed lyricism sailing overhead. Their phrasing is exquisite throughout, with 'Die Taubenpost' sounding particularly pliant. In 'Herbst' the cycle's trailing memories become almost unbearable.
Between these bucolic mileposts, there is great drama. The Don Giovanni heft of Goerne's 'Aufenthalt', is broken by the time we reach 'Ihr Bild'. Such bruised utterances create a huge impression in an otherwise understated performance. Yet some of the Heine settings lack requisite weirdness. The misty ambiguity of 'Die Stadt' sounds too substantial, while Goerne's guileless approach in 'Der Doppelgänger' fails to terrorise. As with Christopher Maltman's recent recording, Goerne and Eschenbach accelerate to the climax, robbing it of its power. But for the sheer beauty and suppleness of voice, Goerne remains unbeatable.
Next to such broad glories, Christoph Eschenbach's performance of the B flat major sonata is cast in unsurprisingly velvety terms. But ignoring the work's angsty capriciousness makes for too content a valediction. The trills in the first movement sound like a disappearing rather than an approaching storm, while the Andante's nagging repetitions are whispered tastefully away. The finale begins with a suitably jarring 'G', but the ensuing dance is too polite. A thing of beauty is, indeed, a joy for ever. But in Schubert's late music, ugliness has to play a major role.