Matthias Goerne & Ingo Metzmacher

Die Götter Griechenlands, D677
Philoktet, D540
Fragment aus dem Aeschylus, D450
Der entsühnte Orest, D699
Aus Heliopolis I, D753
Aus Heliopolis II, D754
An die Leier, D737
Atys, D585
Meeres Stille, D216
Schiffers Scheidelied, D910
Der König in Thule, D367
Blondel zu Marien, D626
Die Gebüsche, D646
Der Hirt, D490
Pilgerweise, D789
Wandrers Nachtlied I, D224
Frühlingsglaube, D686
Das Heimweh, D851
Der Kreuzzug, D932
Abschied, D475

Matthias Goerne (baritone) & Ingo Metzmacher (piano)

Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey

Reviewed: 20 February, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Originally billed as songs by Schubert and Ives, this recital transmogrified into ‘just Schubert’. Matthias Goerne has a quite glorious baritone whilst conductor Ingo Metzmacher is a more-than-competent pianist. However, this was a deeply unsatisfactory evening because both performers invested Schubert with a degree of expressionist angst more appropriate to Hugo Wolf.

Judged purely as a concept, the idea of grouping Schubert’s Greece-related songs on the programme’s first half was an attractive one. In practice it was rather less successful. So much declamation induced monotony – so many fierce tempests raging, and so much struggling in the midst of the maelstrom. This was exacerbated by persistent over-interpretation on the part of the performers. If portentousness equalled profundity, the day would have been here won – even the relatively simple opening song “Die Götter Griechenlands” was invested with a weight that suggested Schubert was being viewed from the wrong end of the 19th-century, however beautiful the actual singing.

Persistently, during the first half, there was also a degree of over-forcefulness – whether in “Fragment aus dem Aeschylus” or “Der entsühnte Orest” (Orestes purified) and by the time we reached “An die Leier” (To the lyre), taken at a laboured speed, one was beginning to feel harangued. Curiously, given the prevailing Greek theme, the first half ended with two nautical songs, “Meeres Stille” (Calm sea), to Goethe’s text, and “Schiffers Scheidelied” (The sailor’s song of farewell) to words by Franz von Schober, who supplied the text for “An die Musik”.

By complete contrast, the recital’s second half focused on those quintessentially Schubertian themes of loss and farewell. Here Goerne’s mellifluous baritone was at its very best in “Wandrers Nachtlied I” (Wanderer’s Night Song) and “Frühlingsglaube” (Faith in Spring), both of which received memorable renditions. Frequently however Metzmacher’s accompaniments were unstylish and over-pedalled – “Blondel zu Marien” (Blondel to Mary) might have been by Schumann – and at this tempo “Abschied” (Farewell) limped to its conclusion.

A degree of understatement is surely part of Schubert’s armoury, but, on this occasion, for all the beauty of Goerne’s voice, interpretative overkill was the order of the day and drained the music of much of its natural spontaneity. Too often one felt as though one were being invited to admire a (very beautiful) specimen in a jar rather than a living, breathing organism.

  • Recital also on February 22, when Matthias Goerne will be presented with the first Wigmore Hall Medal
  • Wigmore Hall

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