Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte, Op. 98 (To the Distant Beloved), and Schubert's Schwanengesang, D. 957 (Swan Song), are two of the most prominent landmarks of the entire repertory of art song cycles, and they've been recorded by quite a variety of heavyweights. Singers approaching these works must find it tempting to try out atypical readings in order to stand out from the crowd, and that's what British tenor James Gilchrist does here. In a word, he tries to recapture the chamber dimensions of works that have resided for a century mostly in good-sized concert halls (even with the relative lack of popularity of art song as compared to other classical genres). Gilchrist has a gorgeous sound that will no doubt attract listeners on its own. He keeps it to moderate dimensions here, and, more important, he avoids grand gestures and takes a relaxed, varied attitude toward tempo. Parts of the Beethoven -- listen to "Diese Wolken in den Höhen" (These High Clouds), track 4 -- are quite brisk, and even the gloomier corners of Schubert's cycle are dispatched without too much fuss. You may miss the sentiment. But it's not a mechanical performance; it's easy to imagine Gilchrist singing the cycles for audiences that knew them well, such as the circle of close friends for which Schubert wrote much of his vocal music. It's a valid reading, if an unorthodox one, supported very well by pianist Anna Tilbrook, by the engineers of Orchid Classics (working at the acoustically superb Potton Hall), and by the unorthodox but convincing graphic design of the project. Recommended for those wanting to try out something new with some well-worn classics.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|An die ferne Geliebte, Op. 98|
|Schwanengesang, D. 957|