How did he do it?

Robert Cowan reviews some of the many historical reissues planned for the Schubert bicentenary year

So, Franz Schubert is 200 years old, and still the melodies linger on - over 600 exquisite songs, eight symphonies, choral works, string quartets, piano sonatas and countless charming morceaux. Musicians adore them and there's a mountain of recorded material scheduled for reissue during this bicentenary year.

The Arbiter label is issuing a wonderful live wartime broadcast of the elusive violin and piano Fantasie, featuring the great Bronislaw Huberman (Arbiter 105 - available from the Complete Record Co next month); Danacord offers a brand-new transfer of Axel Schiotz's achingly beautiful 1945 Die schone Mullerin (DACOCD 452); while Decca's "Schubert Masterworks" (452 389-2, 12 CDs) includes a generous sequence of fine performances - Sir Clifford Curzon in the great B flat Piano Sonata, Andras Schiff in colour-conscious Impromptus and Mstislav Rostropovich poring affectionately over the "Arpeggione" Cello Sonata. There are key symphonies under Istvan Kertesz and Josef Krips, choral works from St John's, famous chamber music recordings from London and Vienna and, perhaps best of all, searching, even disturbing renditions of the two great song-cycles - Die schone Mullerin and Winterreise - by Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten.

Pears and Britten were incomparable Schubertians; indeed, they turn up again, performing Im Fruhling and Auf der Bruck in the context of EMI's epoch-making "Schubert on Record 1898-1952" (CHS5 66150-2 and 66154-2 - two three-CD sets), a truly "historical" set that chronicles a manner of interpretation that would have vanished completely had it not been for the art of recording. Where else are you likely to hear a singer whose earliest audiences had known Schubert in person? Gustav Walter's rapt performance of Schwanengesang's "Am Meer" was set down in 1904, whereas two years later the great Lilli Lehmann acted out a compelling Erlkonig.

Virtually all 129 performances relate highly personalised narratives, but none more so than Ottilie Metzger's 1910 Gruppe aus dem Tartarus. "Anguish contorts those faces," runs the translation, "despair wrenches those jaws apart to utter imprecations." Thirty-three years later and Metzger perished at Auschwitz. There are two septuagenarian Organ Grinders, Harry Plunket-Greene singing in eloquent English and Sir George Henschel, recorded when he was 78 but sounding half his age. Meta Seinemeyer sings Gretchen at her Spinning-wheel with Frieder Weismann conducting an uncredited orchestration. "Ah, I might seize and hold him, and kiss him as I would like," she sings; "in his kisses I should pass away." Seinemeyer married Weissmann on her deathbed. Vanni Marcoux dishes up a Trout in French, Leo Sibiriakov recalls his Resting Place in Russian, and Harold Williams is an English Memnon.

All are magnificent, though Richard Tauber's "Dream of Springtime" (accompanied on the piano by film-music composer Mischa Spoliansky) is greater still, and Gerhard Husch's beautifully enunciated "Die Taubenpost" should be on every fledgling singer's listening list. Elena Gerhardt's An die Musik (with Artur Nikisch, no less) conveys a rare nobility, even through an 85-year-old "horn" recording, and there's a delightful sequence by the perennially youthful Elisabeth Schumann.

Some names are less familiar. Susan Metcalfe-Casals, for example, one- time wife of a great cellist, whose extraordinary inflectional vocabulary makes for an unforgettable Nachtstuck. I could go on... and on... but far better to explore the set for yourself. Recorded quality ranges from the primitive (Edith Clegg in 1898) to the lifelike "mono-fi" (Kirsten Flagstad in 1952); there are texts and translations, but no singer-biographies.

A Schubert lied is a world in miniature, though when the voice is right and the singer feels the text, scale bows to substance. And if you want proof of that claim, then this magnificent set provides it in abundance.

Arts and Entertainment
The Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse in London in 1971: from the left, Keys, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger

Music ...featuring Eric Clapton no less
Arts and Entertainment
In the dock: Dot Branning (June Brown); Union boss claims EastEnders writers are paid less than minimum wage

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Roger Christian wrote and directed the 1980 Black Angel original, which was lost until 2011

film
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Green (Hand out press photograph provided by Camilla Gould)

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones reviewWarning: Spoilers aplenty
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific