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<<  -- 2 --  Peter Dale    An indispensable collection

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Inevitably, the device encourages comparison of singers as well as of poets. Ainsley is the lighter and more transparent of the two, his voice catching ever so slightly at the undertone of vulnerability in Schubert himself: disappointment in love, brevity of life. Anthony Rolfe Johnson, however, reminds us again and again of Schubert's restlessness -- his strange, spiritualised distillation of vitality -- even in his very last songs. Between them, they voice the essence of that otherworldly view of this world that Schubert -- lost for words in the end -- expressed definitively in the String Quintet in C. Ainsley is the more beautiful; Johnson the more searchingly nervous. The resulting whole cycle is a revelation of Schubert transcending even as he epitomises that Romantic Agony which his last music ushered into the 19th century -- half in love with death, but irresistibly drawn back to life again and again. Schwanengesang, having no narrative plot, defines its own structural dynamic through mood and impression. In that sense, Schubert is the prophet of so much music still to come in the century he was about to leave. Yet, on the other hand, we hear in this music not so much that homage to Beethoven familiar here and there throughout all of Schubert's earlier work but the achievement of a debt paid off in full and the consequent freedom that an obligation removed confers.

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Copyright © 30 September 2001 Peter Dale, Danbury, Essex, UK

 

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