The career of English soprano Carolyn Sampson has had a satisfying upward trajectory as her vocal heft and interpretive depth have deepened. This Schubert recital marks a new high point for her. It's not that sopranos haven't done Schubert recitals before; Elly Ameling, a major influence on Sampson, was a superb Schubert interpreter. Even the idea hatched by Sampson and accompanist Joseph Middleton here, that of a collection of Schubert songs from female perspectives, isn't unprecedented. Some of the songs are by female poets; others are familiar Goethe lieder with female characters. What compels attention from beginning to end here is the depth to which Sampson inhabits the various characters. Part of the credit goes to Middleton, who accomplishes the considerable feat of framing the whole thing in a low-to-moderate dynamic without losing expression: it's the overall quietness that casts the spell. And once it is cast, Sampson delivers time after time with interpretations that delve into the heart of a song, or treat it from a fresh perspective. Sample no further than the most famous Schubert song of them all, Gretchen am Spinnrade, D. 118, about which you might reasonably guess there was nothing more to say, and which you might also consider impervious to Sampson and Middleton's slow-burn approach. Not a bit of it. For Sampson, the song is not an operatic outburst but a painful inner monologue, and it's absolutely gripping. There is, of course, also room for the sheer beauty of Sampson's instrument in the form of Ellens Gesang III, also known as Ave Maria, D. 839. BIS engineers work hard to stay in step with Sampson and Middleton, working in the acoustically perfect Potton Hall. A major achievement.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Rosamunde, D 797|