The Naxos complete edition of Schubert songs continues to wend its deliberate way with this, the 22nd release of the series and the fifth devoted to what are here called "poets of sensibility." The German word is "Empfindsamkeit," which is closer to sensitivity than mere sensibility, but the idea of organizing Schubert's songs according to their texts is sound; Schubert is linked in the minds of general listeners with Goethe and a few other famous poets, but most of his songs were to texts by poets who are unknown today, many even in Germany, and it is worth asking how Schubert approached them. This disc is entirely devoted to texts of poet (and theologian) Ludwig Kosegarten, who lived in far northern Germany but was widely enough diffused to reach Schubert in Vienna. Schubert liked him enough to set seven of his poems in the course of one single day in 1815, and many of these songs date from the period in the mid-1810s when songs were flooding out of Schubert's pen as fast as he could write them down. Several others (including the opening Geist der Liebe), however, are later works. These poets of sensibility often wrote about love, but their love songs were of perhaps a characteristically German kind, with philosophical diversions (or underpinnings) that often pertain to the natural world -- the idea of pantheism seems to be growing in these writings. The attraction of Kosegarten's poems is their compactness in comparison with those of other poets of this school, some of them explored on earlier volumes in the Naxos series. One can see why Schubert gravitated toward little songs like the An Rosa pair (tracks 14 and 15); most of the songs here are distinctive groups of five or ten stanzas, lasting two or three minutes in music and fitting perfectly with his malleable strophic settings. Naxos has continued to find excellent younger German singers for this project. There are several on this disc, which was recorded in three different sessions months apart (although all at the same location); the clear diction and grace of soprano Lydia Teuscher stands out slightly from the rest. All the singers seem to follow the lead of fortepianist Ulrich Eisenlohr, who is perfectly attuned to Schubert's enthusiasm and conveys a sense of his own enjoyment of what is unique in each of these modest little songs. The recording, made under the auspices of the Bavarian Radio, is sonically top-notch, but Naxos loses points for not including texts with the recording. The texts, with translations and some helpful indications as to what part of each poem Schubert set, are on a website whose URL is on the cover of the disc, but you have to download the security-problematic Acrobat Reader to get them.
Schubert: Poets of Sensibility, Vol. 5 Review
by James Manheim