This release is part of an ongoing cycle of Schubert song albums by German baritone Matthias Goerne, who was a student of the great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Goerne has taken his time with each new album, knowing that he would be compared with Fischer-Dieskau, and the results continue to be stellar. Goerne's mellow, creamy tone sounds like his teacher's on the surface, and for those who first came to these songs through Fischer-Dieskau the sound is nostalgic and reassuring. But continue listening, and the farther into the album you get, the less Goerne sounds like the older singer. His treatment of rhythm is a good deal freer, and he's more of an actor, shaping each phrase for maximum intelligibility and impact rather than for purely musical coherence. Some of these songs may result in a conceptual disagreement with Goerne; with others listeners will find themselves entranced. Goerne has distributed the Schubert "hits" evenly through the set, and the title Erlkönig here is meant perhaps simply to draw attention to the presence of that famous song on the album; it doesn't relate thematically to the rest of the program. Goerne's reading of this song runs counter to almost every other in its deemphasis of the dramatic element; his Erlkönig is less a direct threat than a fairy tale figure emerging from the mists. But that is just the beauty of Goerne's style: he can remake a song substantially without seeming mannered in the least. The four characters in the Erlkönig tale are perfectly distinct, but the listener is left to wonder about the psychological implications of the tale (which of course the original author, Goethe, would have had fully in mind). With fine sound (Harmonia Mundi does not see fit to specify the location), this is a recording that belongs in any Schubert collection.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim