The Naxos label's new Schubert song series, based on a new edition of the songs, is organized as Schubert himself envisioned and partially carried out the publication of his works: by text author. The recordings of the top-notch songs have been mostly competent rather than top-notch, but this method often conveys loads of information about the creative environment in which Schubert worked. Nowhere has this been more true than with the subgroup of recordings entitled Schubert's Friends, of which this was the third. Here you can really imagine Schubert and his circle standing around a piano, listening to his latest creations. The most interesting group of songs may be the miscellany at the end, with a group of minor text authors who had some kind of special signifcance for the composer. Check out the hilarious Herrn Josef Spaun, Assessor in Linz, D. 749 (To Herr Josef Spaun, Linz Assessor, track 10), which is essentially an extended "why haven't you written?" rant. There's also a simple and effective song with a text by Schubert himself. The bulk of the program is given over to texts by Johann Mayrhofer, the best-known of Schubert's poet friends. These include a massive ballad, Einsamkeit, D. 620 (Loneliness), as well as another fine semi-dramatic song, Der zürnenden Diana, D. 707 (To the Angry Diana). None is an absolute must-hear, but all show aspects of Schubert's personality that, when distilled down, contributed to the crystal accuracy of his miniature masterpieces. The Fischerweise, D. 881 (Fisherman's Tale), that opens the program can stand with any of those masterpieces; it is one of the Schubert songs that deploys a perpetual-motion accompaniment to depict emotional undercurrents (in this case playful ones). Tenor Rainer Trost doesn't quite have the requisite humor for that song or for the Spaun item, but he does effectively handle a wide variety of songs and contributes detailed notes that help the listener understand the aims of the project and the specific circumstances surrounding each individual song. A satisfying treat for Schubert lovers.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Der zürnenden Diana ("Ja, spanne nur den Bogen"), song for voice & piano (two versions), D. 707 (Op. 36/1)