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A Triumph

Matthias Goerne
sings Schubert,
enjoyed by

harmonia mundi    HMC 901988

Schubert: Sehnsucht. Matthias Goerne, Elisabeth Leonskaja. © 2008 harmonia mundi

Matthias Goerne, now seemingly launched on a substantial recording venture in Schubert songs, was born in the Weimar that employed Bach, welcomed Schiller and Goethe as presiding geniuses, and was subsequent home to Liszt and temporary home to Wagner. Goerne is proving a worthy son of the place. His dark-grained voice has the quiet authority for Schubert's tenderest moments, but he has reserves of power that can effectively storm the heights or evoke the eternal torments of the damned. In this first volume of his Schubert Edition, Goerne has as pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja, wonderfully alert to Schubert's moods and his extraordinary emotional range.

Subtitled 'Sehnsucht' (Longing) after one of the Schiller poems in this collection of fifteen songs, the disc deals almost equally with the ever-flowing waters of life, often turbulent enough in Schubert's imagination, when a fragile boat is lashed by the waves of the sea, or rippling quietly in a rural stream, yet never still. Mayrhofer's Journey to Hades conjures an awesome picture of the underworld, where the sluggish river of Lethe robs the dead of all memory of what once they were, and the murderous Danaids are condemned to futile trapping of water in their leaking pots.

Listen -- Fahrt zum Hades D526 (track 1, 2:07-3:19)
© 2008 harmonia mundi

Not so far from the Nile, the Colossi of Memnon beneath the Theban hills are the subject of another Mayrhofer poem. Or rather, it is the northern of the two Amenhotep III statues that used to emit a sound as dawn broke and the warmth of the sun caused the shattered stone to 'speak'. The ancients conceived the notion that this was the spirit's lament of the warrior who died at Troy, greeting his mother Aurora. Mayrhofer characteristically extends the idea to involve Memnon's longing to join his mother and shine upon the earth as a star.

Listen -- Memnon D541 (track 6, 0:00-1:20)
© 2008 harmonia mundi

A practical Roman emperor, Septimius Severus, applied a dab of restorative concrete, and silenced the statue.

A third Mayrhofer poem is entitled The Boatman. The waters he has to navigate are turbulent indeed, as with soaking clothes he approaches headlong the perils of whirlpool and reef.

Listen -- Der Schiffer D536 (track 8, 0:51-1:18)
© 2008 harmonia mundi

At an opposite extreme is Goethe's Hope, a quiet stanza of heartfelt aspiration that evokes from Schubert music of comparable hieratic poise.

Listen -- Hoffnung D295 (track 14, 0:56-1:24)
© 2008 harmonia mundi

This first disc is a triumph for all concerned, and presumed harbinger of many more to come.

Copyright © 28 May 2008 Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt


Schubert: Sehnsucht

HMC 901988 Stereo NEW RELEASE 65'05" 2008 harmonia mundi sa

Matthias Goerne, baritone; Elisabeth Leonskaja, piano

Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Fahrt zum Hades D526 (Mayrhofer); Freiwilliges Versinken D700 (Mayrhofer); Das Weinen D926 (Leitner); Des Fischers Liebesglück D933 (Leitner); Der Winterabend D938 (Leitner); Memnon D541 (Mayrhofer); Lied eines Schiffers an die Dioskuren D360 (Mayrhofer); Der Schiffer D536 (Mayrhofer); Sehnsucht D636 (Schiller); Der Jüngling am Bache D638 (Schiller); An Emma D113 (Schiller); Der Pilgrim D794 (Schiller); Gruppe aus dem Tartarus D583 (Schiller); Hoffnung D295 (Goethe); Grenzen der Menschenheit D716 (Goethe)


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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular series of shorter CD reviews