A present-day sorcerer, a rising star, a beloved veteran, and Schubert-inspired Yiddishkeit: Operavores who enjoy great Lieder singing will find much to savor in these recent releases.
Matthias Goerne: “Schubert: Erlkönig” (Harmonia Mundi)
Next season baritone Matthias Goerne will play a well deserved starring role in Carnegie Hall’s Vienna: City of Dreams festival, singing the title role in Berg’s Wozzeck under Daniele Gatti and Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin with Christoph Eschenbach at the piano. In Vol. 7 of his Harmonia Mundi Schubert series, Goerne takes up some of the composer’s most familiar songs, with the same beguiling results that have characterized previous installments.
Theodor Adorno wrote that Schubert “roam[ed] around the woods and caverns of the word,” and singer and accompanist Andreas Haefliger follow him on that dark journey. For all the sheer gorgeousness of Goerne’s tone, a pall hangs over "Klage,” the song of a soul unmoved by nature’s wonders, and a sudden, deathly chill infuses his sound in its final measures. “Erlkönig” itself is a hellish whirlwind, with Goerne summoning three distinct voices for the child, his heedless father, and the covetous elf-king, supported by Haefliger’s frantic but never slapdash playing. Listen to it here:
“An den Mond” is all mellow rapture and “Die Forelle” an irresistible romp, while Goerne in “Am See” touches some extreme outer limit of soulful, poetic vocal beauty. This album rewards repeated listening and will be cherished by Lieder enthusiasts and newcomers alike.
Matthew Rose: “Schubert: Die Winterreise” (Stone)
Gramophone compared bass Matthew Rose to Hans Hotter when it named Rose’s debut recital disc, Schubert’s Die Winterreise, its April recording of the month. Chalk it up to the magazine’s incessant drumbeating for British artists: Rose is only 34, and while he is a splendid musician with a firm, burnished sound (heard to fine effect in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda at the Metropolitan Opera earlier this year), he has some distance to go before warranting comparison with his towering Hessian forerunner.
That said, no performance or artist can exhaust the riches of Schubert and Wilhelm Müller’s grim cycle, and Rose and pianist Gary Matthewman do searching, honorable work. In “Die Krähe,” Rose’s ebony sound and the sweet, steadily darkening filigree of the pianist’s playing commingle to haunting effect, and Rose makes of dreh’n (“turn,” “twist”), the final word in “Der Leiermann,” an acid, terrifying sneer.
Franz Grundheber: “Lieder einer Reise” (TYXart)
Born in 1937, Franz Grundheber cannot match Rose or Goerne for vocal freshness, even though "Lieder einer Reise" (TYXart) is a reissue of a 2003 recording. But think back to the great Giuseppe Taddei, who at age 69 was a canny and masterful Falstaff at the Met, and you will have some idea of Grundheber’s appeal in this program of travel songs. He seems less a singer than a dear friend who also happens to be a zestful raconteur, and the joy of his company more than offsets the odd touch of dry or unsteady tone.
Superbly accompanied by Matthias Veit, Grundheber utters every word he sings with gusto. The dramatic prowess that made him an unsurpassed Wozzeck comes to the fore in selections from Wagner’s early ‘Faust’ Songs: the Flohlied, Mephistopheles's mocking serenade to Gretchen, and Brander’s Lied. (“Travel” in this program is defined broadly as desire and redemption as well as locomotion.) The album includes works by Mendelssohn, Schubert, Robert Schumann, and Wolf, but the highlight is Frank Martin’s Six Monologues from ‘Everyman’ (1943), settings of texts by Hugo von Hoffmannstahl, in which Grundheber contemplates last things with terror, weariness and awe.
Mark Glanville: “Die Sheyne Milnerin” (Nimbus)
Musicians from Frank Sinatra ("In the Wee Small Hours," "Only the Lonely") to David Lang (death speaks) and Q2 Music’s own Phil Kline (Out Cold) have riffed on Schubert’s song cycles, which themselves probably hark back to collections of verse sung by troubadours and their Moorish forebears, the Biblical Song of Songs, and ancient traditions in which bardic poetry and song were one.
Bass-baritone and cantor Mark Glanville and pianist Alexander Knapp follow up on the success of 2010’s "A Yiddish ‘Winterreise'" (Naxos) with "Di Sheyne Milnerin," a loose retelling in Yiddish song of Schubert and Müller’s saga of love and despair, Die schöne Müllerin. The selections range from folk songs to works by Alexander Olshanetsky, a mainstay of New York’s Yiddish theater, and Mordechai Gebirtig, the socialist balladeer murdered by the Nazis in the Kraków Ghetto. Glanville’s singing is warm and idiomatic, if short on vocal glamour, and the project tells an intriguing tale of cultural cross-currents and mutual enrichment.