Schubert. So many songs, and yet so few of them are heard in performance. Here is one of my favorite lesser known gems sung by the amazing Nicolai Gedda. For me, he’s the perfect mix of bel canto ease and just plain class. And I, for one, don’t mind that the recording has not been airbrushed to perfection using all the gewgaws of modern-day recording technology. There are a few blemishes in pitch and tone that make it all the more human. And it’s a really hard song! Schubert requires a heck of a task to float up to a high A a couple of times; the vocal lines are long and sustained; and, as is mostly the case with Schubert, there’s nowhere to hide over such an elegantly simple piano accompaniment. (The two-bar postlude is heart-wrenching to me.) This is a serenade—you could imagine a guitar or plucked strings instead of piano, an idea made plain by the poem’s first stanza:
Nun, da Schatten niedergleiten,
Und die Lüfte zärtlich wehen,
Dringet Seufzen aus der Seele,
Und umgirrt die treuen Saiten.
Now that shadows glide down
And the breezes gently blow,
Sighs drawn from the soul
Caress the faithful strings.
But after this placid opening line, we learn, in typical Romantic fashion, that our poet has been wronged in love and he pleads with night to “wrap around me.” This song hypnotizes me with its subtle harmonic shifts. The sequence that starts at 1:30 is a thing of lyric perfection. More rarely heard Schubert, please!
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