SCHUBERT Erlkönig – Goerne
More than any other singer, Matthias Goerne conjures a Schubert who once allegedly said of himself, ‘Sometimes it seems as if I no longer belong to this world’: a counterpart to the solitary, absorbed figures in the landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich, whose Monk by the Sea is duly reproduced in Harmonia Mundi’s booklet. Seekers of charm and lightness should look elsewhere. But for rapt inwardness and scrupulous care for tone production and a seamless legato line, Goerne has no equal today.
His darkly mellow baritone, soft-grained yet with reserves of power, is a perfect instrument for the pantheistic reveries and barcarolles on this new disc. In two sublime sunset scenes, ‘Im Abendrot’ and ‘Abendröte’, he seems to hug Schubert’s incantatory lines to himself. The luxuriant, Italianate cantilenas of ‘Der Fluss’ and ‘Widerschein’ are gently, gracefully caressed, the long phrases floated on seemingly inexhaustible reserves of breath, and Goerne’s brooding intensity, breadth of phrasing and deep bass resonances make for a magnificent ‘Der Wanderer’, that quintessential expression of Romantic alienation. Goerne’s tone doesn’t easily smile, of course. Despite every encouragement from Andreas Haefliger, ‘Fischerweise’ sounds more severe than blithe. The enchanting barcarolle ‘Alinde’ is all musing inwardness, à la Friedrich, where a touch of playfulness would not come amiss. But after so many performances from winsome sopranos, I rather welcomed Goerne’s unusually urgent, incisive ‘Die Forelle’, with its vivid flash of anger at the fisherman’s treachery. As in all the faster songs, Goerne is careful to preserve evenness of line even in extremis. With the superbly articulate Haefliger, he conjures a terrifying night-ride in ‘Erlkönig’, characterising each ‘voice’ vividly without recourse to exaggerated ventriloquism. Its equestrian counterpart is ‘Auf der Bruck’, another grippingly sung and played performance that mingles breathless impetuosity with stabs of intense yearning: a thrilling, no-holds-barred send-off to a recital that is self-recommending for the baritone’s many admirers. And even doubters might have to concede that no singer cares more than Goerne for the beauty and eloquence of Schubert’s melodies.