“The Sea” = DEBUSSY: Trois Mélodies de Verlaine; Beau Soir; FAURE: Poème d’un jour Op. 21; L’horizon chimérique, Op. 118; 4 Melodies; SCHUBERT: Der Schiffer, D536 (Mayrhofer); Meeresstille, D216, Op. 3 No. 2 (Goethe); Fahrt zum Hades, D526 (Mayrhofer); Auf der Donau, D553 (Mayrhofer); Erlafsee D586 (Mayrhofer); Gondelfahrer, D808; Ruckweg, D476 (Mayrhofer); Am Strome, D539 (Mayrhofer); Gruppe aus dem Tartarus, second version, D583 (Schiller) – Henk Neven, baritone/ Hans Eijsackers, piano – Onyx 4102, 63:59 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
The concept of this album hangs around one of the most popular themes in all of music—the sea. As such it relies heavily on text alone, even though some of the songs reflect a tangential emphasis at best. Nevertheless it is certainly a valid idea, even though I am a little perplexed at having to wade through two prominent impressionists that set a definite mood before being thrust into the colder and much clearer and discerning waters of Schubert. Basically, it’s sort of like listening to two different—and short—recordings. Perhaps mixing them physically on the disc would have varied the program more. And I guess I could take the time to program it that way, but does anyone ever really do that?
This is the second recording of Dutch baritone Henk Neven, and it is a fine one. His voice, with its tight, fast vibrato, effortless breath support, and glorious tone, is perfect for the French songs (and excellent diction as well), and not quite as convincing in the Schubert though certainly of a lyrical bent that is not what we are used to hearing in that composer. But Neven is still able to bring home the bacon in Schubert with his winning ability to project emotion and meaning in every word. The pianism of Hans Eijsackers matches him every bit of the way, athletic and very intensive playing. The sound of Potton Hall in Suffolk—which I have never heard of before—is brilliantly captured, making for a fine disc.