Classical CD Reviews

SCHUBERT: Willkommen und Abschied – Werner Güra, tenor/ Christoph Berner, fortepiano – Harmonia mundi

A compelling song journey through the stages of life.

Published on August 26, 2012

SCHUBERT: Willkommen und Abschied – Werner Güra, tenor/ Christoph Berner, fortepiano – Harmonia mundi

SCHUBERT: Willkommen und Abschied – Werner Güra, tenor/ Christoph Berner, fortepiano – Harmonia mundi HMC 907112, 67:02 ****:

Reading the notes for this album, “Welcome and Farewell”, I was stricken by the similarity of the concept to the famous series of four paintings by American artist Thomas Cole, The Voyage of Life, where the four seasons of a man’s life are captured in “Childhood”, “Youth”, “Manhood”, and “Old Age”. These paintings, quite massive in size, are on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. You might think it odd that Franz Schubert was expressing many of the same sentiments in his music, but Cole painted his masterworks only 14 years (1842) after Schubert’s death and many of Schubert’s romantic inclinations and concerns were not foreign to Cole or the American culture at the time.

What Werner Güra has done is to hash through Schubert’s massive song collection to find examples of these four stages of life to express the wide-eyed optimism of childhood, the energetic hopefulness of youth, the struggling and tempestuous ordeals of middle age, and finally the acceptance and resignation of older age. The songs chosen, whether the lovely “Cradle Song” or the melancholy “The Winter Evening” are all most appropriate to the theme presented, and the recital on the whole has been most carefully chosen to really good effect.

Werner Güra’s tenor voice is perfect for this type of recital; light, expressive, and nicely tailored to the subtle emotions found in each type of song category. Christoph Berner, playing on a Rönisch fortepiano, accompanies with a firm sense of equality and clarity in line. This is the sixth issue these two have produced for Harmonia mundi, and it is a worthy one.

TrackList:

Heidenröslein D. 257; Schlaflied D. 527 Wiegenlied D. 867;

Geheimes, D. 719; Ganymed D. 544; Auf der Bruck D. 853; Der

Fischer D. 225; Dass sie hier gewesen D. 775; Bei dir allein

D. 866 Nr. 2; Der Schiffer D. 536; Willkommen und Abschied

D. 767; Der Wanderer D. 493; Im Walde D. 834; Wandrers

Nachtlied I “Der du von dem Himmel bist” D. 224; Der Einsame

D. 800; Der Winterabend D. 938; Herbst D. 945; Der Vollmond

Strahlt auf Bergeshöh’n aus Rosamunde D. 797; Nachtstück

D. 672

—Steven Ritter




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