Nachtviolen is the title of a text by Schubert's frequent collaborator Johann Mayrhofer, here translated with the flowers' usual English name, Dame's Violets. They might also be called night violets, which gives an idea of the gentle yet often somewhat dark and mysterious mood of most of the songs programmed here by German baritone Christian Gerhaher. The songs are by and large not very common ones, and Sony deserves credit for not insisting on the inclusion of one of the big Goethe hits. But what Gerhaher gets instead is unusual continuity, both within the often very complex songs he has chosen and over the course of the entire program. The partnership between Gerhaher and pianist Gerold Huber is very close in examining the ways Schubert emancipated the piano from an accompanimental role and often had it mold songs into entirely new shapes. Gerhaher's voice is deceptively smooth; listeners won't realize how deeply they've been drawn into the drama of a song and how it spills over the neat quatrains of the poetry. The entire program will haunt the mind long after hearing it, but for those who have to have highlights, check out the quietly bittersweet conclusion of Abschied, D. 475 (track 4), and the wild harmonic experimentation of Totengräber-Weise, D. 869 (Gravedigger's Song, track 15). A triumphant release from a singer who has emerged at the top of the considerable heap of baritone Schubert specialists.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim