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Schubert's Goethe-Lieder -- opinions?

Discussion in 'classical' started by mattgbell, Jun 20, 2019.

  1. mattgbell

    mattgbell Stop worrying!

    Two separate issues here:
    (i) what are people's favoured recordings (Fischer-Dieskau, Schreier, etc etc);
    and (this is the BOMB)
    (ii) are Schubert's Goethe settings actually any good? In theory, the match of Schubert (arguably the greatest exponent of the German song tradition) and Goethe (UNarguably the greatest lyric poet of modern Europe) should be a winner -- but as a lover (professionally) of Goethe's poems, I find Schubert's settings on the whole banal, and much prefer settings by other, lesser composers (Hugo Wolf is a particular favourite).
    Any thoughts?
  2. Tantris

    Tantris pfm Member

    A case could be made for Erlkönig to be amongst the greatest of Schubert's lieder. One singer, four voices, thrilling drama, and a question about what death really means in this context (is it really death, or is it the son gaining knowledge which separates him from his father), together with a piano part which is demanding for even the most accomplished pianist - Erlkönig is extraordinary.

    My son has it in his repertoire, and that's my favourite recording. Elsewhere, I like Fischer-Dieskau, and most of the Hyperion Schubert lieder recordings under Graham Johnson. I think Schubert found his greatest expression with Schiller, but the Goethe settings are also sublime.

    I'm also going to take issue (;-)) with your statement of Goethe being UNarguably the greatest lyric poet of modern Europe. I've been re-reading Lyrical Ballads in recent weeks, and I'd put Wordsworth forward as a worthy contender for this title.
  3. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

    There’s a really disturbing one, Der Zwerg. Schubert’s settings are different from Wolff’s, I don’t know about banal, they can be pretty satisfactory in some hands, but Schubert was not a consistent composer as far as I can see, that’s my impression after just superficial listening I suppose.
  4. SteveT

    SteveT pfm Member

  5. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    There are sadly two genres of classical music that I seem immune to the enjoyment off. [This is a bit like the music enthusiast who claims that Mozart is a mystery!] Opera and Lieder. I suppose it is that if one reads the libretto while listening [to get the meaning] you barely concentrate on the music as such, and if you know the language then you would be spared that problem. I once learned the translation for the Wintereise as I had Hotter's recording. I almost enjoyed that after the work of learning the words, but eventually a friend of mine liked that CD so much I gave it away, years ago now. I never did replace it, and honestly have not missed it.

    I adore quite a lot of Schubert's music, especially the solo piano music, the chamber music, and some of the Symphonies. Not everyone loves the Heavenly Length of the Great C Major Symphony, but I do for what it is, rather than how it compares to the sweep of a Beethoven Symphony or the magnificent compression of Haydn's.

    Best wishes from George [The Philistine].

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