SCHUBERT Schwanengesang. Klavierstück D946 No 2
A couple of years ago Stephan Genz and Michel Dalberto released a Winterreise that was welcomed in these pages by Richard Wigmore for its unblinking clarity of approach (Claves, 1/16). That performance dated from as far back as 2010, while this new Schwanengesang was recorded at the beginning of this year.
It’s a great deal less clear what the approach is here – a reflection perhaps of the less focused nature of this opportunistically assembled final ‘cycle’. There’s an impressive single-mindedness and urgency to several numbers – ‘In der Ferne’ and ‘Am Meer’ are built up seriously and patiently, for example. Others, such as ‘Kriegers Ahnung’, feel surprisingly short on tension; the ‘Ständchen’ strikes me as heavy and portentous.
Another major factor, though, is the condition of Genz’s voice, which sounds distinctly frayed and underpowered in comparison to the Winterreise. Its characteristic soft grain is now closer to woolliness, its dynamic range apparently greatly reduced. Anything from about mezzo-forte and above sounds effortful, while a great deal is whispered – effectively, it turns out, in a light-touch performance of ‘Der Abschied’.
Genz’s interpretative skills are still in evidence and there are plenty of moments to enjoy still in Dalberto’s playing, particularly in the way he exploits his Bösendorfer’s rich lower register. But there’s an inevitable sense of compromise in uncomfortable accounts of ‘Der Atlas’ and ‘Der Doppelgänger’, while the engineering places Dalberto rather too far back in the sound picture – I found myself adjusting the volume in an attempt to bring voice and piano into satisfying balance.
The second of the D946 Klavierstücke (not all three of the set, as the disc’s cover misleadingly suggests) is programmed between the Rellstab and Heine songs, but Dalberto’s performance of it is disappointingly over-romanticised and certainly not enough of a bonus, I’m afraid, to make this disc preferable to any number of alternative Schwanengesang recordings.