With a Director’s Instincts, Goerne and Eschenbach Tackle Schubert

United StatesUnited States Schubert: Matthias Goerne (baritone), Christoph Eschenbach (piano), Carnegie Hall, New York City. 5.3.2014 (DS)

Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin, Op. 25, D. 795 (1824)

As part of Carnegie Hall’s Vienna: City of Dreams festival, baritone Matthias Goerne appeared with pianist Christoph Eschenbach in Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin. This singular event provided the perfect example of what it feels like to be in good hands, artistically. The story—one of distressed and unrequited love ending in ecstasies of suicide—would imply that discomfort and agony (with a large dollop of the maudlin) were in order for the evening. But, in fact, it was quite the contrary. Despite all woes relayed by the text and its heart-wrenching music, Goerne and Eschenbach soothed, satisfied, and assuaged with their interpretation and effortless technique.

It might have been that woody quality in Goerne’s voice—never piercing or sudden in its delivery. Or perhaps it was the sense of easy elasticity that the duo’s phrasing aroused, pulling the song cycle into another time and place. That feeling was visually emphasized by the way Goerne sang three-quarters of the work stretched on tiptoe, either towards Eschenbach or the audience. They brought cinematic energy to the work, with a director’s instincts: here exaggerating tiny details, there miniaturizing grand gestures.

Though linked in the story’s adventure, pianist and singer did not succumb to the pitfalls of telling it sentimentally. Both artists approached it with the deep and wide knowledge earned by adroit musicians with plenty of life under their belts—illuminating the adolescent miller’s tearful story, yet making the artwork all their own.

Daniele Sahr

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