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Abendbilder (Schubert Lieder), Christian Gerhaher, Gerold Huber (March 6, 2007)
Christian Gerhaher's Papageno was recently under review in the Salzburg Zauberflöte, as was his Orlando Paladino with Harnoncourt, and Jens reviewed him live last year in the St. Matthew Passion under Helmut Rilling. Gerhaher is most celebrated as a Lieder singer, however, and his latest recital CD, again with pianist Gerold Huber, makes it clear why that is the case (charming critics at Opera News and Gramophone, among others). The exquisite program is a selection of 17 Lieder from Schubert's vast corpus of hundreds of songs (only one song, Auf der Bruck, overlaps with the Ian Bostridge Schubert selections, for example), with recourse thankfully to only one or two of the usual suspects, including a sublimely gentle and still Du bist die Ruh.
Die schöne Müllerin (2006)
The perceptive and innovative essay by Prof. Dr. Klaus Hinrich Stahmer in the liner notes points the listener to some of the themes in the songs presented here and how they relate to the composer's life and love of the poetry he set. This is more than simply good listening; it is a new way to think about the songs of Schubert. The poems return again and again to images of night, the title of the CD, which was taken from the Lied on a poem by Johann Peter Silbert: fragrant breezes, cool groves, moonlit churches. The tolling of the bells calling monks to Vespers is memorably echoed in Huber's piano in the third verse of that poem. Gerhaher's care for the words is precise but in no way pedantic, and Huber's delicate approach to the piano allows a broad space for Gerhaher's supple and subtle voice to spread itself. The sound is close and faithful, a proximity that the listener never regrets, wallowing in the clarity of poetry and that musical expansion of the words at which Schubert so excelled.
The only spot on the achievement of this superlative disc is a relatively minor matter, but one that should not go unremarked. The English translations of the Lieder, which have been left uncredited in the booklet, are copied verbatim from the translations offered online at Emily Ezust's Lied and Art Song Texts Page. The German texts, of course, are in the public domain, but the English translations, by Ezust and other volunteers, are most definitely copyrighted. We often link to Ms. Ezust's database, which is an invaluable resource, and hate to see her work abused by a company that should be paying for its own English translations.
RCA Red Seal (Sony BMG) 82876777162
You should not miss the opportunity to hear Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber live this fall, in an enticing all-Schumann program, at the University of Virginia's Cabell Hall in Charlottesville (October 9, 7:30 pm) and/or at a recital sponsored by Vocal Arts Society, at the Austrian Embassy (October 11, 7:30 pm) here in Washington.