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Robert A. Moore
American Record Guide, May 2012

There is lots of energy in this volume…In ‘Der Zwerg’ Trost captures the menacing eeriness well…It’s a wonderful voice with smooth legato and vibrant tone…In the highly operatic ‘Herrn Joseph Spaun’…Trost’s high Bs are impressive…He moderates his voice nicely in the final ‘Schwanengesang’… © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

James Manheim, March 2009

The Naxos label’s new Schubert song series, based on a new edition of the songs, is organized as Schubert himself envisioned and partially carried out the publication of his works: by text author. The recordings of the top-notch songs have been mostly competent rather than top-notch, but this method often conveys loads of information about the creative environment in which Schubert worked. Nowhere has this been more true than with the subgroup of recordings entitled Schubert’s Friends, of which this was the third. Here you can really imagine Schubert and his circle standing around a piano, listening to his latest creations. The most interesting group of songs may be the miscellany at the end, with a group of minor text authors who had some kind of special significance for the composer. Check out the hilarious Herrn Josef Spaun, Assessor in Linz, D. 749 (To Herr Josef Spaun, Linz Assessor, track 10), which is essentially an extended “why haven’t you written?” rant. There’s also a simple and effective song with a text by Schubert himself. The bulk of the program is given over to texts by Johann Mayrhofer, the best-known of Schubert’s poet friends. These include a massive ballad, Einsamkeit, D. 620 (Loneliness), as well as another fine semi-dramatic song, Der zürnenden Diana, D. 707 (To the Angry Diana). None is an absolute must-hear, but all show aspects of Schubert’s personality that, when distilled down, contributed to the crystal accuracy of his miniature masterpieces. The Fischerweise, D. 881 (Fisherman’s Tale), that opens the program can stand with any of those masterpieces; it is one of the Schubert songs that deploys a perpetual-motion accompaniment to depict emotional undercurrents (in this case playful ones). Tenor Rainer Trost doesn’t quite have the requisite humor for that song or for the Spaun item, but he does effectively handle a wide variety of songs and contributes detailed notes that help the listener understand the aims of the project and the specific circumstances surrounding each individual song. A satisfying treat for Schubert lovers.

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, October 2008

A couple of the songs here are among the more frequently performed ones and they invite comparison. I have never heard Rainer Trost as Lieder singer but know him well in other capacities. On disc he was a splendid Camille on Gardiner’s Die lustige Witwe almost fifteen years ago and I have heard him as a leading Mozart singer. All of this is an excellent background for success in Lieder, where lyrical warmth and ability to express nuance are essential. The first track, Fischerweise, introduces him as a rather powerful singer but also an elegant and sensitive one. His voice has bite and character which makes him stand out from a lot of able but rather pale competitors. His approach is vivacious and fresh and his enunciation is clear. His phrasing is musical and flexible to the texts but he has a tendency to overstress isolated words or syllables. He sets them in extra bold type instead of italics. This description is somewhat exaggerated, maybe, and it is far from a common feature but every now and then it is noticeable. The overriding impression is, however, of an expressive, well articulated and sensitive singer with a generally beautiful voice. He is capable of dramatic singing, though there are places where he overtaxes his basically lyric tenor. The almost operatically dramatic Herrn Josef Spaun, Assessor in Linz (tr. 10) is such a case, another one is Der Zwerg (tr. 12), once impressively recorded on a Telefunken LP by a splendid Mozart singer of an earlier generation, Werner Hollweg. Rainer Trost’s reading of this dramatic, bleak and sad song is fully up to the requirements and has the listener spellbound until the bitter end. He also shows impressive stamina in the demanding Der zürnenden Diana, where there is hardly any point of rest for singer or the pianist.

There are two songs entitled Abschied, D.475 a setting of words by his friend Mayrhofer, D.578 to a text by himself. Both songs are melancholy but beautiful and Trost is at his lyrical best here. The final two songs are settings of texts by Johann Senn, another friend, who was sent to prison for fourteen months and then banished to the Tyrol. Schubert was never to see him again and the death symbolism of Schwanengesang (tr. 15)—nothing to do with the group of songs published after Schubert’s death—may well be ‘a metaphor for the enforced silence of his exiled friend’ as Ulrich Eisenlohr puts it in his notes. The song as such is a captivating farewell.

The most remarkable work on this disc is however Einsamkeit D.620 (tr. 5), lasting for almost 18 minutes and in effect a song cycle in six sections, variable in moods but still coherent. It has a very active piano part and calls for dramatic singing, sometimes in recitative style, as well as intimate lyrical moments. Schubert thought very highly about it, writing: ‘…the best thing I have done so far.’ This was in 1818, five years before he composed Die schöne Müllerin, and a possible influence may have been Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte. It is certainly a bold composition and Eisenlohr and Trost give it an involved and concentrated performance. The tenor sings with a glow and a plangent tone that recalls Fritz Wunderlich. My only previous version of it is a wartime radio recording issued on a pair of Acanta LPs, coupled with Die Winterreise and sung by Peter Anders. Anders, who started as a lyric tenor, was already moving into heavier roles in the 1940s and was an important Walther in the 1950s. His reading is even stronger than Trost’s, who pushes his beautiful voice too much in some of the climaxes, whereas Anders expands with Heldentenor sheen. Trost is however a sensitive interpreter and this extraordinary work would by itself make the disc desirable.

Good recording and excellent notes. Schubert lovers should find a lot to admire on this disc.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2008

We have now reached volume 28 in this enormous undertaking to record the complete songs of Schubert, a project that is scheduled for completion by the end of this year.

Its progress has been unusual, each disc coupling the songs in relation to the poets that Schubert used, the present volume containing settings of poems by the composer’s inner-circle of friends. The bulk comes from Johann Mayrhofer who was Schuberts’s mainstay in his provision of texts, together with three offered by the motley group that included the political hothead, Johann Senn. He was to provide the words to one of Schubert’s most beautiful songs, Schwanengesang. Revelry in the group comes in a pastiche of other composers used by Schubert in the song, Herrn Josef Spaun, Assessor in Linz (To Mr. Josef Spaun, Civil Service Probationer of Linz) written as a rebuff to one of their circle recently moved to Linz and who had failed to answer letters. But most of the disc is serious of nature, and benefits from the elegant singing of Rainer Trost, a famed tenor well known in the field of Mozart opera. It is a voice of light lyric quality with the agility needed for the opening track, Fischerweise (Fisherman’s Tale), though we ideally require a voice in a lower register for Totengraber-Weise (Gravedigger’s Song)to words by Franz von Schlechta rather than the better known Craigher text. The disc’s most extended work, Einsamkeit (Solitude),and Der Zwerg (The Dwarf), are usually the property of baritones and sit unhappily for a tenor. Trost compensates by his strong characterizations, his use of words and excellent diction serving Schubert well. In Ulrich Eisenlohr he has a pianist who shares this desire to explore nuances in tonal colours. Good sound quality.

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