Thomas Oliemans

Schubert: Schwanengesang

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Franz Schubert's posthumously assembled song cycle, Schwanengesang, encompasses a wide range of expressions, from the radiantly lyrical to the darkly despondent, and requires a singer of tremendous versatility and genuine artistry to bring it off successfully. Baritone Thomas Oliemans possesses a warm and flexible voice that moves easily between Schubert's emotional poles; the sweetness of the opening "Liebesbotschaft" and the horror of the penultimate "Der Doppelgänger" mark the extremes of Schwanengesang's emotions, yet Oliemans is convincing in both and communicates all the expressive shades between them. Oliemans is sympathetically accompanied by the accomplished Malcolm Martineau, who has the ability to match the changing moods spontaneously and fluidly, so singer and pianist perform throughout with a unified purpose. Schwanengesang is arranged in two parts, the first consisting of texts by Ludwig Rellstab, the second on poems of Heinrich Heine and one by Johann Gabriel Seidl. It is thought that Schubert had originally conceived of these groups as separate entities, instead of one coherent cycle on the order of Die schöne Müllerin or Die Winterreise. Because there are differing opinions of Schubert's intentions, there are various ways of presenting the work. For this recording, four songs on texts by Ernst Konrad Friedrich Schulze are inserted between the two halves of Schwanengesang, which serve as a transition between the lighter tone of the Rellstab songs and the grim Heine settings. EtCetera's recording is close-up, but comfortably so, and Oliemans voice is immediate but not overwhelming, while the piano part has presence without ever being dominant.

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