SCHUBERT: Schwanengesang, D. 957; Auf dem Strom; Die Sterne – Mark Padmore, tenor/ Paul Lewis, piano/ Richard Watkins, horn – Harmonia mundi 907520, 67:25 ****:
Schubert’s Swan Song Schwanengesang—rather ironic in the title—was probably not intended as a song cycle at all. His publisher wanted to make one last Schubertian present to the world, and culled together the songs by three separate composers who were the unwitting contributors to the piece: Ludwig Rellstab (1799–1860), Heinrich Heine (1797–1856) and Johann Gabriel Seidl (1804-1875). The poems are not thematically linked but generally speak of those old favorite romantic topics like unrequited love, beauty, longing, etc.
Following the success of the two previous issues by Padmore and Lewis (Die Schone Mullerin and Winterreise) they have embarked on the third and final of the “great” Schubert cycles; I am happy to report that the results are every bit as good as the previous issues. The wonderful “Standchen” is as gorgeously rendered as any I have ever heard, while we feel the pangs of the distant boatman as he views through the mist the place where he lost his true love in “Die Stadt”. Lewis if of course a sensation at the moment and one gets perhaps a little more of a forceful accompaniment that was common fifty years ago, and all to the good. But Padmore, tackling a work that some feel is more appropriate to the baritone voice (why I don’t know) is able to match his pianist in determination and persuasion every inch of the way, offering a performance of great flair and expressivity. Those looking for a modern Swan Song have found a safe harbor in this delicious issue.
The two additional songs make for a nice addition, both penned later in the year after Schwanengesang, “Auf dem Strom” especially interesting because of its scoring for tenor, horn, and piano.
Different versions of Bruckner Symphony No. 4