Franz Schubert left behind some 600 songs when he died in 1828. He was aged just 31 and his end came after the agony of tertiary syphilis – a cruel end for someone who created such beauty.
This collection by Matthias Goerne is centred, as the title suggests, on songs of night and dreams, with lashings of melancholy, old age and presages of death. Goerne’s black voice is a perfect vehicle for such dark musings. His is a voice which seems to be moving from baritonal to bass, and in some instances – particularly the thunderous Totengräbers Heimweh (“Gravedigger’s Pining for Home”) his timbre assumes a positively Wagnerian strength.
This is a fascinating compilation of Schubert in his darkest moods. As an antidote to its gloomy moments, I would recommend listening also to Goerne’s recording of Die schöne Müllerin, which has its share of grief too, but which also contains carefree beauty missing from this anthology.
Don’t misunderstand me: this is a fine collection. But if the listener is starting out on a journey of Schubertian exploration, there are more varied shores to explore than these. Pianist Alexander Schmalcz accompanies satisfactorily, though the keenest sense of artistic collaboration is not fully evident on this disc.
The recording acoustic is close, accentuating breathing, and there seems to be some very occasional congestion when Goerne reaches the loudest vocal levels.