Graham Johnson dubbed Vol. 18 of his Schubert edition "Schubert and the Strophic Song," and while that is certainly true (nearly all the songs on this disc are strophic settings), it is not the reason to hear the disc. And although Johnson engaged the wonderfully expressive tenor Peter Schreier as the vocalist on the disc, and although Johnson's accompaniment is subtle and supportive as always and his liner notes are exhaustive and entertaining, none of these are the reasons to hear the disc either. The reason to hear the disc is the almost-song cycle Auf dem wildes Wegen setting of poetry by Ernst Schulze. Schulze was one of the madder of the mad German Romantic poets, and the poems from his Poetische Tagebuch trace the course of one of his love affairs. But so mad was Schulze -- the girl and her parents forbade the poet from having any contact with her on pain of imprisonment -- that the poems are less about the course of his love affair than about the disintegration of his mind. When Schubert set ten of Schulze's poems in the winter of 1825 and 1826, he had already treated the theme of love gone mad in his Die schöne Müllerin cycle, but his Schulze songs seem wilder and more desperate than the Müllerin songs -- closer to the Winterreise than to the Müllerin. Although Johnson would not quite claim the Schulze songs as a cycle, by performing them in a group he and Schreier make the notion of a cycle plausible. And their performance of the Auf dem wildes Wegen songs is so personal, so harrowing, and so mad that no lover of Schubert Lieder should miss it.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard