Matthias Goerne / Alfred Brendel

Schubert: Schwanengesang; Beethoven: An die Ferne Geliebte

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This program of German lieder was assembled from live performances in London's Wigmore Hall on November 5 and 7, 2003. The cross-generational pairing of 30-something baritone Matthias Goerne and 70-something pianist Alfred Brendel -- a no-frills modern voice and an old-school Romantic -- forms an interesting parallel with the program: Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte (To the Distant Beloved), the earliest notable German Romantic song cycle; and Franz Schubert's Schwanengesang (Swan Song), the last song cycle by the composer who brought the form into its full maturity. Indeed it is a program of contrasts. An die ferne Geliebte is so integrated that no one of its six songs can be satisfactorily excerpted, while Schwanengesang is a frankensteinian admixture of musically and poetically contrasting scraps assembled only after the composer's death. Meanwhile, Brendel plays as if he wants to "do" something with every phrase -- to shape it, caress it, move it along, or slow it down; but Goerne doesn't do things that way, instead preferring a straightforward execution that sometimes borders on mechanical. The result is a performance that often has no clear intentions, and no apparent expressive vision. The most notable aspects of this recording are Goerne's vocal consistency, indistinguishable in live performance from his work in the studio, and the inclusion of "Herbst," D. 945 (Autumn) as an extra song in Schwanengesang. Schubert may very well have intended to group "Herbst" with the other Ludwig Rellstab poems that were eventually published as the first half of Schwanengesang, but even if that isn't the case, "Herbst" fits in perfectly with those robust, tuneful settings, and it is a charming song in its own right. The live sound is very clean, and unusually warm for a recital recording in a large space.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
0:08
An die ferne Geliebte, song cycle for voice & piano, Op. 98
2
2:35
3
1:47
4
1:44
5
1:11
6
2:36
7
4:08
8
0:15
Schwanengesang (Swan Song), song cycle for voice & piano, D. 957
9
3:09
10
4:46
11
3:18
12
3:46
13
2:50
14
3:58
Schwanengesang (Swan Song), song cycle for voice & piano, D. 957
15
5:55
16
4:29
17
2:11
18
3:25
19
2:13
20
3:11
21
4:44
22
4:26
23
0:30
Schwanengesang (Swan Song), song cycle for voice & piano, D. 957
24
4:17
25
0:28
blue highlight denotes track pick