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Robert A. Moore
American Record Guide, May 2012

Some of the best songs are here, particularly ‘Sei mir Gegrusst’…‘Lied des Florio’…‘Das Heimweh’…and an exquisitely tender ‘Wiegenlied’ (D 304).…Schafer has a voice equally suited to Bach, Mozart, and Schubert. Using an extensive variety of vocal coloring, elegant molding and shaping of phrases, and well-tapered dynamics, Schafer’s voice cuts through without sounding at all unpleasant or strident. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

John Freeman
Opera News, May 2008

"Aside from freshness of repertory, the disc offers further perspective on Schubert's versatility in dealing with different poets"

Following the Bärenreiter New Schubert Edition, and Schubert's own intention (first hatched in 1816) to have his songs published in orderly fashion, Naxos this year is completing a series of CDs with all the composer's songs — more than 700 of them! Texts for the songs aren't included, but there's a website from which to print them.

Schubert wanted his songs grouped according to the various poets. As the Naxos project director, pianist Ulrich Eisenlohr, points out, "Schubert set the poetry of over 115 writers … from Classical Greece, the Middle Ages and Renaissance, from eighteenth-century German authors, early Romantics, Biedermeier poets, his own contemporaries, and of course finally poems by Heinrich Heine, although sadly the two never met." Judged by this CD, Eisenlohr is not only an organizer after Schubert's own heart, he's also an artistic director who knows how to match the right voice to the material. As accompanist, he plays with as fine an appreciation for detail as for rhythm and form.

The Naxos disc starts with nine lieder to words by the "rather conventional" Theodor Körner (1791–1813). Love is the main theme, and in no great depth: Schubert chose mostly parlor serenades. Yet in the opening paean to nature, seen from a mountaintop, the composer finds interesting piano figurations to support a hymnlike purity of line. As the serenades follow, sameness flattens the landscape, alleviated by touches that could escape casual listening but are pointed out by Eisenlohr's thoughtful liner notes.

Either these songs were written with a lyric tenor in mind, or Markus Schäfer quickly convinces us they were. His light, discreetly nimble voice caresses a phrase with delicately modulated dynamics, seeming to wrap flexibly around a phrase from both ends and lift it gently, delivering his words with the clarity of speech. As the program moves on to other poets — Schütz, Kind, Gerstenberg, Rückert, Winkler, Schlegel, even a German translation of Colley Cibber's "The Blind Boy" — the subject matter turns deeper, the versification less mannered, and the music follows suit.

The sheer taste of Schäfer's singing, and its partnership with Eisenlohr's playing, give this recital a quiet authenticity. Within the emotional confines of Körner's "Sehnsucht der Liebe," for example, every flicker of contrast between longing (rather urgent) and nature's peace (calm, reflective) is caught, as the poet looks for equipoise between them. The musical flow breathes. In Körner's "Das war ich," about a dream, the voice floats on the music, held up and moved by it, with no sense of weight or pressure — almost like reading the poem aloud to oneself. Later, with the cheerfully animated accompaniment to "Hänflings Liebeswerbung" (Kind) and the catchy pattern of "Hippolits Lied" (Gerstenberg), the pianist has a chance to expand his expressive palette, while in "Der blinde Knabe" (Cibber) and "Die gefangenen Sänger" (Schlegel) the tenor expands to touch on poignancy and irony, respectively.

This CD isn't for lovers of name-brand Schubert songs; it's for the curious, and it should help singers find something unfamiliar to spice their programs. Aside from freshness of repertory, the disc offers further perspective on Schubert's versatility in dealing with different poets. However confined their sensibility, the composer responded to them as spontaneously, inquisitively and subtly in music as he might have done in conversation.  

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, February 2008

"Markus Schä with fine nuances and his voice is often ravishing. (...) Ulrich Eisenlohr is a splendid accompanist as he has been throughout this series. The recording quality is everything one could wish. Eisenlohr provides his own liner-notes...splendidly informative. (...)Markus Schäfer’s excellent enunciation is a great asset."

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2007

Volume 25 of the complete Schubert Lieder offers the second disc under a new sub-heading ‘Romantic Poets’, and returns to Schubert the highly impressionable teenager who fell under the influence of Theodor Korner whose poems of freedom and struggle were matched by his early heroic death in opposition to the Napoleonic army of occupation. The resulting character is somewhat different to Schubert’s later songs and in truth were not among his most inspired settings. It was Wilhelm Schlegel who introduced the young composer to the ‘Romantic Poets’ and it is four of his songs that close the disc. Despite the numbering these are again early works that often lack a depth of musical feeling. It is his poem Abendlied fur die Entfernte that is the most extensive piece on the disc and does have a tendency to outstay its welcome. I suppose Ulrich Eisenlohr’s programme notes that describe Karl Winkler’s Das Heimweh as ‘feeble text’ sums up much of the disc, but there is one of Schubert’s great gems in the setting of Friedrich Ruckert’s Sei mir gegrusst (I Greet You), its wide range of dynamics expressing the poem’s emotional intensity. Markus Schafer is a singer who concentrates on communicating words, much of the quieter moments taken in a head tone. It will be a vocal quality that appeals to those who place the import of the words as a priority before beautification of musical line. Eisenlohr offers his usual immaculate accompaniments, the recording at times catching the mechanics of the piano.

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