Matthias Goerne, Christoph Eschenbach, Salle Pleyel, Paris, May 11 2012
The Schwanengesang evening by Matthias Goerne & Christoph Eschenbach in Salle Pleyel was the last of 3 concerts dedicated to Schubert’s lied cycles.
Since the early retirement of Thomas Quasthoff a few months ago, Goerne is without doubt the most accomplished lied baritone singer of our time. Eschenbach – today mainly active as a noted conductor – remains an excellent pianist. His career as a pianist was always shared between “standard” repertoire and lied accompaniment: his recording of Schumann’s Dichterliebe with the legendary Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is among the very finest. I also keep in mind the Schöne Müllerin concert in Pleyel 2 decades ago – a memorable evening, fortunately available on DVD. Fischer-Dieskau, who taught both Goerne & Quasthoff, has died just a few days after this concert and 10 days short of his 87th birthday and will be sadly missed by all opera, religious music and lied lovers.
Goerne had decided to sing the group of Rellstab songs – adding Herbst – followed by the Heine songs, without Seidl’s Taubenpost, whose light atmosphere has nothing to do with the Heine lieder. A clever choice.
The interpretation was clever indeed, beautiful and moving. I was particularly touched and impressed by Kriegers Ahnung, Frühlingssehnsucht, Aufenthalt and In der Ferne (Rellstab songs), Der Atlas, Ihr Bild, Die Stadt, Am Meer and the closing Der Doppelgänger (Heine songs). The Rellstab songs had the necessary tension and vigour, the Heine the characteristic nudity, asceticism of Schubert’s last lieder: feeling like an acrobat on a tightrope with abysses below.
The 2 musicians were back for an encore, which was naturally Die Taubenpost!
The Schwanengesang is about 1 hour long. Though it is commonly accepted that Schubert song cycle concerts last 1h to 1h20 – the Winterreise being longer – and do not include any other work, Christoph Eschenbach was back after an intermission to play Schubert’s last sonata. This famous work starts with a long Molto moderato followed by a wonderful Andante sostenuto. Both movements were beautifully played at a rather slow pace – as written! – with many splendid moments. I was less keen on the Scherzo, but the concluding Allegro ma non troppo was another high point of the evening.