Schubert Revisited. Matthias Goerne. ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH

CD Spotlight

A Pleasant Surprise

Schubert songs with orchestral accompaniments, highly recommended by GERALD FENECH

'An absolute peach of a disc where everything falls into place with astute precision.'


Franz Schubert (1797-1828), one of the greatest composers in the history of music, left a priceless legacy in the 'lieder' genre. Indeed, he wrote some six hundred plus songs that encompass every human emotion and condition, and not long after his death, many of these miniature gems became the favourites of audiences and singers alike. For the past hundred and fifty years a myriad of fine interpreters have sung these unique creations, and the number of recordings available is indeed huge.

Well, now we can add the present album that contains a pleasant surprise, particularly for all Schubert admirers. Matthias Goerne, one of the most high profile Schubertians of his generation, has recorded a selection of these songs, not in their original versions with piano but in orchestral arrangements by Alexander Schmalcz, Goerne's accompanist of many years' standing.

Listen — Schubert, arranged Schmalcz: An Silvia
(4839758 track 1, 0:02-0:57) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

Goerne says about Schmalcz's arrangements:

His creativity in adapting these songs for orchestra is enormous, while his stylistic sensibilities and his subtle approach in deploying the right instruments at the right moment are truly astonishing ... Schubert's ability to empathize makes him one of the most important composers in the whole of human history. He created a perfect balance between intellectuality and the greatest naturalness. With Schubert, even the most complicated melodies and forms sound entirely natural.

And yet what we experience on this album is pure Schubert.

Listen — Schubert, arranged Schmalcz: Erlkönig
(4839758 track 7, 0:00-0:55) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

Schmalcz insists:

I have added nothing. Sometimes I fill out the voices by doubling the octave, for example. Or I write sustained chords in the orchestra in order to simulate the sound surfaces that are the result of the use of the sustained pedal on the piano. But my goal is to be as original as possible.

This carefully assembled selection of nineteen songs includes such well-known 'lieder' as An Silvia, Der Tod und das Mädchen and Erlkönig, as well as the three sublime Gesänge des Harfners, whose texts come from Goethe's Wilhelm Meister and have never been orchestrated.

Listen — Schubert, arranged Schmalcz:
Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt (Gesänge des Harfners)
(4839758 track 10, 1:18-2:02) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

Schubert Revisited brilliantly reflects Goerne's deep sense of the composer's unique blend of formal logic, expressive nuance and musical invention. The emotional impact of Goerne's interpretations is here enriched by the wide range of instrumental colours and textures Schmalcz brings to this marvellous selection of songs.

Listen — Schubert, arranged Schmalcz: Ganymed
(4839758 track 3, 3:03-3:55) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

One last comment from the singer:

The choice of songs that I have made acquires a timbral dimension that the piano is incapable of reproducing. This does not mean that the orchestral version is better, only that it is different.

An absolute peach of a disc where everything falls into place with astute precision. Indeed, no matter what interpretation these lieder are given, Schubert's understanding of the texts is always captivatingly moving and alluring. Highly recommended.

Copyright © 6 March 2023 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta



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