David's Review Corner
, August 2007
For the 24th volume of the complete songs of Schubert, Naxos start a new grouping under the heading 'Romantic Poets'. This first volume is centered on the poems of Friedrich Schlegel and covers the years 1818 to 1823 often described as his 'Romantic Song Phase'. Schlegel was involved in telepathic spirituality and had a profound effect on Schubert, his cycle of poems, Abendrote (Sunset) attracting the composer to set eleven of the twenty-two to music, (D690, 633, 652, 692, 745, 649, 634, 693, 691, 684 & 646). The fact that they were composed over a period of four years and not in the order in which they appear in Schlegel's cycle, suggests that musically Schubert did not see his setting as being strictly linked, though stylistically his treatment of each song was very similar. In the group we find the piano highlighting the sentiments expressed in the text, many being openly sad, others with that feeling hidden within the words. The 'cycle'is surrounded here by songs that are overtly dramatic (the heading shows the order of performance), The best known poet is Friedrich Ruckert - who was later to inspire Mahler - and here supplies three poems for the group of 'Vier Lieder'which Schubert gathered together under opus 59 (D756, 775, 776 and 777), their strong texture a foretaste of Wagner yet to come. But it is Die junge Nonne (The Young Nun) to words by Craigher that opens the disc with such romantic vehemence. The German soprano, Julie Borchert, whose appearances include Wagner opera at Bayreuth, has the big vocal equipment to express Schubert's musical protestations, and can thin her voice when required. Maybe Schubert had a more agile voice in mind in the Schlegel settings, the 'cycle'calling for a voice to encompass many varying moods, and frequently with innocence to highlight the double meaning of the words. Ulrich Eisenlohr warms to the very positive role given to the piano, the aggressive Swiss originated recording from 2004 adding to his potency. Play at a very low volume setting for the most attractive results.