Franz Schubert could benefit from an "authentic performance" movement of his own, for his music was in most cases not intended for the buttoned-down concert hall settings in which it is now usually performed. Much of it was written for and originally made within a circle of creative friends and acquaintances, akin in some ways to the independent creative underground networks found in contemporary American cities. Schubert Among Friends tries to re-create a little bit of this ambiance, and the goal is more than worthwhile. The Aldeburgh Connection is a group of six musicians loosely centered on Scots-born Canadian pianists Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata, who studied in the city of Aldeburgh. They take turns accompanying a quartet of Canadian singers and offer one four-hand piano work, the Rondo in A major, D. 951. Most of the works on the album are solo songs, with a few duos or trios. None falls into the "partsong" category promised by the album cover, and this is a shame -- a more varied program that included some actual partsongs and more piano music would have enhanced the meeting-of-friends atmosphere. The Schubert partsong repertory is brimming with works that would have been appropriate. That said, however, the general level of the performance is high. The rather sensual setting of Goethe's Sehnsucht, D. 636 (Longing), much less well known than the gloomy minor-key version often performed by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, is very sweetly delivered by baritone Gerald Finley, and there are several other fairly obscure gems. The constantly rotating forces keep the program lively, and all the young Canadian singers acquit themselves well in terms of singing Schubert clearly, with conviction but without overheating. Brittle sound is a disincentive here, but this is a disc worth hearing for Schubert fans and especially for singers -- it opens a promising line of investigation.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
An eine Quelle ("Du kleine grünumwachs'ne Quelle"), song for voice & piano, D. 530 (Op. posth. 109/3)
Sehnsucht ("Ach, aus dieses Tales gründen"), song for voice & piano (second version), D. 636 (Op. 39)