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Schubert - Goerne & Eschenbach

Die schone Mullerin – Schubert

Mathia Goerne – baritone

Christoph Eschenbach – piano

Wigmore Hall – 15th of June 2009


This was the opening recital of Goerne and Eschenbach’s mammoth undertaking to perform the major Schubert song cycles in one week at the Wigmore Hall with Winterreise following on the 17th and Schwanengesang on the 20th. These recitals form part of a larger project too. Goerne is creating The Goerne/Schubert Edition on the Harmonia Mundi label – a long term project to record Schubert song with various guest artists. He is also repeating his major performing feat of all three Schubert song cycles in a week at various festivals this summer including Ravinia.


Goerne and Eschenbach make a formidable partnership. They are both extremely gutsy performers, taking risks with tempi and dynamics that sometimes left the other lacking support but after the opening few songs these minor disagreements seemed to sort themselves out. They performed the complete cycle without interval taking was almost an hour and a half – giving an indication of some of the achingly slow tempi for some of the more tender songs. This contrasted with frantic, aggressive angst in the more upbeat numbers.


In Goerne, I never really saw the young innocent miller setting out on his journey. It was as if Goerne and Eschenbach already knew the ending and told the story from beyond the grave, full of bitterness and disappointment. These were the emotions that rang most true for the pair and I missed the blustering enthusiam and ignorant joy of young love. Joyous outpourings such as Mein! were raced through – emphasis given to the possession rather than the enjoyment of requited love.


The following songs Pause and Mit den grunen Lautenbande are some of the tenderest moments in the cycle, yet they were sung as if by an old man looking back at his youth rather than experiencing his burgeoning maturity for the first time. This serenity was shattered by the blustery Der Jager – Goerne already knew the hunter would steal his pretty maid as soon as he showed up, and from this song on the tone was bitter and indulgent.


Redemption came in the final song as the brook which had accompanied the Miller throughout the cycle gives him final rest from his tormoent. Goerne and Eschenbach chose such a sombre tempo for this song that the effect was rather like a funeral dirge, if a particularly sublime one. At it’s close, the hall was left in a stunned silence, as if unsure whether it is apporpriate to applaud such an anguished end.


At this point, it is worth referring you to see Serena Fenwick’s review of the cycle by treble Harry Sever – a recording which undoubtedly emphasises the youthful element that I felt this interpretation lacked.

Tess Ormond


Schwanengesang & Piano Sonata in Bb

Schubert Schwanengesang including, including Herbst D945
Piano Sonata in B flat D960

Matthias Goerne baritone
Christoph Eschenbach piano

Wigmore Hall – 20 June 2009


Schwanengesang, taken straight through, was a powerful experience and found Goerne in magisterial form, the voice answering to every extrme demand placed upon it.

Eschenbach (b. 1940), once considered "one of the finest pianists of his generation", has not given a solo piano recital for more than thirty years and it showed! He played this sonata last month in a chamber concert at Disney Hall [pictured] where the Los Angeles Times liked it despite the sonata being "a bit ragged"...


Repeated to follow Goerne's Schwanengesang, we hated it. Played from the music, turning the pages himself, there never was a coherent pulse beneath the vagaries heaped upon it. Technique was fallible, with many splashes in easier passages. Over pedalling was the rule and Eschenbach did no favours to Wigmore Hall's excellent Steinway.


To "exorcise" that bad experience, over Sunday breakfast we played one of our favourite versions of the Bb sonata - Gilbert Schuchter's from his intégrale of the Complete Piano Works of Schubert "on a sweet-toned Bösendorfer, just right for this music" [Tudor CD 752 - q.v. Schubert's Piano Music - Goldstone, Schuchter, Staier and Tverskaya].

Peter Grahame Woolf