Saturday, May 08, 2010


My iPod has quite a bit of Matthias Goerne by now. Besides Die Schöne Müllerin, there is an album of Dichterliebe and Liederkreis reviewed elsewhere, and an album of Bach arias with Christine Schäfer and Hilary Hahn called Bach: Violin & Voice.

The singers in the Bach album simply don't rise to the level of the divine Hilary Hahn. What is she doing that they are not? Again it comes down to phrasing. Bach's music comes with a regular harpsichord beat underlying everything. So do you just fall in with it and emphasize every beat with the harpsichord and eventually become plodding, as I feel Goerne does here? Or do you phrase across and occasionally against the beat as Hahn does? Schäfer falls somewhere between the two.

I enjoy all of them in various ways, but only Hahn attains the truly divine. I want them to soar higher.

How one reacts to a singer will depend very much on the timbre of the voice. Goerne is the sort of singer who will appeal or not. He has cut a niche for himself in Lieder singing which is very appealing. I personally prefer his tone to that of the sainted Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, but I know this is strictly a matter of personal taste.

In Lieder Goerne masterfully manipulates his tone to enhance expression. He can diminuendo without falling into sotto voce, as so many do nowadays.

At this point I refer to Anna Netrebko saying that she was taught to sing always with a full tone. When conductors and coaches want a softer tone than she can produce without switching to sotto voce, she simply refuses to do it. For me this is wisdom.

For Goerne his tone stays full to very low dynamic levels. He also can manipulate the color of his voice to great effect. This can be wonderful to hear in Schumann. My problem here is that his overall color is too dark for Die Schöne Müllerin, a work of extreme naivete. Perhaps Wunderlich could manage it. I still refuse to buy his version.

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