Christian Gerhaher

Schubert
Dem Unendlichen, D291
Gesänge des Harfners, D478-480
Daß sie hier gewesen, D775
Du bist die Ruh’, D776
Greisengesang, D778
Der Musensohn, D764
Erster Verlust, D226
Jägers Abendlied, D368
Wilkommen und Abschied, D767
Abendbilder, D650
Himmelsfunken, D651
Drang in die Ferne, D770
Die Sterne, D933
Romanze, D797
Alinde, D904
Fischerweise, D881
Im Abendrot, D799
Auf der Bruck, D853

Christian Gerhaher (baritone) & Gerold Huber (piano)


Reviewed by: Rob Pennock

Reviewed: 14 September, 2005
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Christian Gerhaher has established quite a reputation for himself, possessing as he does a strongly projected high baritone with a broad tonal range. This all-Schubert programme mixed well-known songs with rarer items, which enabled the listener to gain a good idea of Gerhaher’s strengths and weaknesses.

In the opening song, “Dem Unendlichen”, Gerold Huber’s volume and pedalling were excessive; when Gerhaher entered the expression was coarse and often strident, the innigkeit of the third stanza escaping him and the whole effect decidedly matter-of-fact. In “Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt” (the first of the three “Gesänge des Harfners”) there was a contrived sentimentality at “Ach! der ist bald alein” and in the closing bars the expressive line disintegrated. I was also curious as to why he reversed the order of the last two songs, given that Schubert’s makes better musical and emotional sense. In “An die Turen…”, especially, there was a disappointing lack of atmosphere. This lack was similarly apparent in “Du bist die Ruh” in which, again, the piano introduction was too loud and over-pedalled; Gerhaher failed to breathe the opening verse or suggest any real sense of the song as a hymn of rapt contemplation. In “Der Musensohn” there was a degree of bounce and swagger, albeit slightly staid; in “Jägers Abendlied”, in which the hunter talks of stalking through fields and gazing at the moon as he contemplates his beloved, there was a disappointing lack of word-painting. By the end of the first half I gained the impression that Gerhaher was addressing a group of cadets at Sandhurst, such was the rigidity of his phrasing.

The second half was better, with both artists sounding more relaxed, Gerhaher using a wide dynamic range yet failing to illuminate the text of the opening song, and in the following one he produced nothing more than some beautiful sounds. “Drang in die Ferne” was let down by a sluggish tempo and “Die Sterne” suffered from Huber’s over-pedalling. More light and shade and some exquisite dynamic control was apparent in “Alinde” and “Fischerweise”.



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