Wednesday 3 March 2010

Goerne/Deutsch - Schubert Lieder (II), 2 March 2010

Wigmore Hall

An die untergehende Sonne, D 457
Der Tod und das Mädchen, D 531
Die Rose, D 745
Erinnerung, D 101
Litanei auf das Fest aller Seelen, D 343
Auf dem Wasser zu singen, D 774
Abendbilder, D 650
Nach einem Gewitter, D 561
Der Zwerg, D 771
Im Frühling, D 882
Die Blumensprache, D 519
Viola, D 786
An die Entfernte, D 765
Bei dir allein! D 866/2
Ganymed, D 544

Matthias Goerne (baritone)
Helmut Deutsch (piano)

The second of Matthias Goerne’s and Helmut Deutsch’s Schubert recitals (see here for the first) was perhaps still more impressive than its predecessor, such difference as there was being in good part attributable to the higher quality of the verse. Franz von Schober’s tedious Viola was an exception, but Goerne and Deutsch gave it a better account than it perhaps deserved. What is one to make of Spring, the bridegroom, wresting his ice-weapon (Eiswehr) from Winter, or the ‘little breast’ of the violet? Quite a lot, perhaps; at least such instances amuse, unlike the catalogue of flowers, or the incomprehensible sounding of the snowdrop.

The recital opened as it meant to go on, however, with an appropriately leisurely An die untergehende Sonne, whose direction – sunset – was yet clear throughout. Death was given explicit form, indeed character, in Der Tod und das Mädchen. I find it impossible not to think of the quartet here, but Deutsch’s ineffable sadness to the piano prelude possessed its own character and prepared the way admirably for the maiden’s terror, so harrowingly and fleetingly portrayed by Goerne. Die Rose exuded the schöne Warme of Schlegel’s opening line, though death proved still more beautiful. And the whispers of dying breezes haunted Erinnerung too. What might happen after death can at best be glimpsed, which is perhaps what we did in the Jacobi setting, Litanei auf das Fest aller Seelen. Goerne’s beauty of tone rendered the ultimate repose a comforting, even seductive prospect, but this remained serious stuff: a litany, after all. The pregnancy of the pause before the final line, in which the hope of eternal peace is once again enunciated, was moving indeed. The piano is every inch the equal partner in the marvellous Auf dem Wasser zu singen. Here, Deutsch vouchsafed us intimations perhaps of Chopin, albeit within the content of still-Classical form. Deutsch’s projection of the vesper-bell in Abendbilder was an object lesion in meaningful tone-painting, which never once sought to draw attention to itself. Goerne’s drawing upon seemingly endless reserves of breath was equally impressive, as was the subtlety of his dynamic contrasts in Nach einem Gewitter. For the final number of the first half, we heard the Flying Dutchman-like Der Zwerg. Goerne turned Gothic storyteller, urgent and tender. The dwarf’s heart seemed almost literally to burn with desire for the queen, such was the intensity of the singer’s rendition. And the menace in the piano part managed both to suggest an orchestra and to remain impeccably pianistic in character.

Im Frühling is a truly lovely song, and so it sounded here. Its virtues are as much in musical form as in poetic response; Schubert’s modulations were given musical and verbal life. The advertised Stimme der Liebe was replaced, though I am afraid I know not by what. The generally lighter second half concluded with subtlety in its final three items. Goerne was not afraid to use his voice at something approaching, at least apparently, full throttle in the climaxes to An die Entfernte and Bei dir allein! At least as impressive, however, was once again the subtlety of his shading – and that of his partner. Mozartian poise and an almost Rococo-like melismatic flowering characterised the concluding Ganymed: not only beautiful in rendition but concerned with the essence and ambiguities of beauty itself. If it captured the heart, it also probed: a fitting tribute to Schubert himself.