Classical cd review

SCHUBERT | The Final Year (Hyperion)
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The Independent Culture

In 1987 Hyperion began to record the complete songs of Franz Schubert. Even by composers' standards, his was a short life. He died at the age of 31, leaving 745 songs, almost all of them written with extraordinary perception of the human condition. This is the last disc in a series that has involved three generations of singers from Fassbaender and Schreier, through to Goerne and Schäfer. 1828 was the year of Schubert's Schwanengesang (literally Swansong) - a less cohesive cycle than Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise but one whose emotional ambivalence has hypnotic appeal. It's tempting to see pre-destination in the repeated farewells of Abschiedt, the resignation of Ihr Bild and the cold terror of Der Doppelgänger. But we know that Schubert did not expect to die at 31, and the development of his writing was clearly still in flux. On this disc Schwanengesang is divided between two of Britain's greatest tenors: John Mark Ainsley and his former teacher, Antho

In 1987 Hyperion began to record the complete songs of Franz Schubert. Even by composers' standards, his was a short life. He died at the age of 31, leaving 745 songs, almost all of them written with extraordinary perception of the human condition. This is the last disc in a series that has involved three generations of singers from Fassbaender and Schreier, through to Goerne and Schäfer. 1828 was the year of Schubert's Schwanengesang (literally Swansong) - a less cohesive cycle than Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise but one whose emotional ambivalence has hypnotic appeal. It's tempting to see pre-destination in the repeated farewells of Abschiedt, the resignation of Ihr Bild and the cold terror of Der Doppelgänger. But we know that Schubert did not expect to die at 31, and the development of his writing was clearly still in flux. On this disc Schwanengesang is divided between two of Britain's greatest tenors: John Mark Ainsley and his former teacher, Anthony Rolfe-Johnson. The division of the cycle into youth and maturity plays to both singers' strengths, makes much of the similarity between their voices and gives the progress of the cycle an added dimension. I still find Graham Johnson's accompaniment overly reverential but the Complete Schubert has been his creation and for that alone he deserves respect. He should also be commended for the authoritative sleeve notes (anything you might wish to know about each song is here) which perfectly balance erudition with approachability. Anna Picard

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