SCHUBERT: Sehnsucht (Longing) – Matthias Goerne, baritone/ Elisabeth Leonskaja, piano – Harmonia mundi

by | Apr 26, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUBERT: Sehnsucht (Longing) – Matthias Goerne, baritone/ Elisabeth Leonskaja, piano – Harmonia mundi HMC 901988, 65:05 ****:

Matthias Goerne is beginning a series of Schubert lieder of his own choosing; of which this is the first volume. He starts darkly—this is not cheery stuff, and in a way is a little unrelenting in its romantic torpor and depression. The effusive yet flowery and convoluted notes do little to bring to light any sort of cohesive meaning to this collection. While there are a few poems that lighten the listener’s load, most of these works, properly summed up by the title track of the album, Longing, are full of restless notions of wandering, the difficulties of true love, and the never-ending quest of death in the human realm. After all, the first song here is Journey to Hades while we end with The Limits of Mankind.

Schubert’s music does of course measure up to the poetry he set, the usual suspects included, such as Goethe, Schiller, and Mayrhofer. If there is any down side to the program it would have to be that the composer captures the essence of these turbulent writings all too well; one does not look for a new or surprising twist the composer may have used to apprise us of hidden meanings in the text, though he has done that before. No, what you see is what you get in this case, and so when you listen to this recital be prepared for an hour of somber reflection—and incidentally, some extraordinarily beautiful music, which is the redeeming factor in all of this. Aside, of course, from the deep burgundy texture of Goerne’s voice, so unlike someone like Fischer-Dieskau, but equally as effective in portraying the many subtleties and cautious changes of mood that Schubert was so adept at painting, even sometimes word to word. Elisabeth Leonskaja would not have been my initial choice for this repertory as pianist, but after hearing this I can see how the Slavic sensibilities she brings to this music serves its rather richly-romantic canvas very well.


Journey to Hades
Voluntary Oblivion
The Fisherman’s Luck in Love
The Winter Evening
Song of a Seaman to the Dioscuri
The Boatman
The Youth by the Brook
To Emma
The Pilgrim
Group from Tatarus
The Limits of Mankind

— Steven Ritter

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