Schubert lieder are a much-beloved body of work, exploring a variety of themes as per the poets who wrote the texts. Matthias Goerne's album with pianist Alexander Schmalcz explores the two themes of love and death, and the differences in character are reflected in the color of his voice, some times more successfully than others. The album begins with a plodding piano and a deeper, more covered voice. The first few lieder tend to sound somewhat the same, with Goerne's voice sounding slightly murky in the lower registers and his higher notes sounding more lyrical like a tenor. As the album progresses, so does the interpretation of the songs. His phrasing improves, and he is more united with the emotions; the piano also begins to choose more careful phrasing. By the fourth track, Totengräber-weise, Goerne sounds more operatic and emotional, in character, and the listener hears his true baritone voice. From here on, we hear a very different type of singer, one who is telling us a story, often with great tenderness in his voice. Perhaps this is a reflection of the change in subject of the songs, as they focus more on love, and Goerne draws us in as he prays to the moon, sings to Silvia, and serenades his beloved (one would certainly "Steh auf!" upon hearing his request). Der Schäfer und der Reiter is especially noteworthy, with a beautiful, Chopin-esque piano introduction that provides a pastoral feel, and Goerne sings the two characters with great contrast. The final lied, An die Geliebte, shows us what the Goerne can do when he sings out, for he sounds confident and the piece is well done. Needless to say, one can hear how German should sound when sung properly, as he is singing in his native tongue. Overall, Goerne seems to come across better on the love songs, when he has more passion in his voice and is more connected to the characters.
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AllMusic Review by V. Vasan