Thursday, 29 November 2018

Schubert Unfinished - Concentus Musicus Wien, Florian Boesch

Schubert Unfinished (Aparté AP189) is the first CD Concentus Musicus Wien has recorded since the death of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who, in the course of countless musical voyages of discovery, had such a decisive influence on its musicians. The ensemble explores "uncharted territory" with orchestrations of Schubert Lieder by Johannes Brahms and Anton Webern, soloist Florian Boesch, with a new completion of  Schubert’s Symphony in B minor (D 759) compiled by Nicola Samale and Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs.

Anton Webern's orchestrations of Schubert Lieder date from 1903, very early in his career, and are of interest because they show how Webern approached the adaptations with restraint. They are faithful to the purity of Schubert's idiom, perhaps teaching Webern the virtues of understatement : nothing like the elaborations of Franz Liszt ! "Tränenregen" from Die Schöne Müllerin supports the vocal line with delicate strings, woodwinds and chamberpipe organ murmuring when the voice is still, replicating the refrain in the piano part.  "Der Wegweiser" from Winterreise is equally hushed, providing a contrast to Brahm's darker orchestration of Schubert's Memnon D541, to a text by Mayrhofer. Just as the character of a poem affects its setting, an orchestration should reflect the song.  Thus Brahms's orchestration of Schubert's Geheimes D719 is lighter and livelier. Goethe's poem describes playful flirtation, hence the good humour in Schubert's and Brahms's approach. "Ihr Bild" from Schubert's Schwanengesang is a setting of Heinrich Heine, also very distinctive. It draws from Webern almost funereal low timbred horns and brass, assertive but never dominating the vocal line.  Boesch rings out the final words "Und ach, ich kann es nicht glauben, Dass ich dich verloren hab’!" like a cry of anguished recognition, for the painting is all that remains of the beloved, who is dead.  The anthem-like solemnity of Webern's orchestration shows his sensitivity to the poem and to the song. It is one of the highlights of the whole disc.

Schubert's Gruppe aus Tartarus D583 sets a text by Friedrich Schiller, and is highly dramatic. Brahms's orchestration matches its forcefulness, ascendant figures with hunting horns and long trombone lines, and an almost Beethovenian climax, followed by brief, potent postlude. Schubert's tender Du ist der Ruh D776 is complemented by Webern’s graceful orchestration. 

Drafted in 1821, Schubert's manuscript for what is known as his seventh symphony exists in sketch form, with a melody line and bass and counterpoint underneath. All four movements of the 7th were drafted, but he only orchestrated the slow introduction and the first 110 bars of the first movement. setting the piece aside before working on his opera Alfonso und Estrella. There also exists an autograph draft of a complete third movement (Scherzo, D 759/3),with the opening bars orchestrated., to which Samale and Cohrs have added a brief trio to create a third movement. They also suggest that it is possible that the first entr’acte from Schubert’s incidental music to Rosamunde (D 797/1), dating from the same period, was intended to serve as the symphony’s Finale. This movement, lasting almost four hundred bars, is also in B minor, and it bears many noticeable similarities to the symphony. Indeed, there are motivic relations that link both the Scherzo and the entr’acte with the symphony’s first two movements. Over the past 150 years, there have been several attempts to complete this symphony.  This version, first performed by Concentus Musicus Wien in 2014 and conductor Stefan Gottfried is gracefully paced and good listening.


Ladnod said...

Thanks, Anne, for the fine review. I'd read about using the Rosamunde music for the last movement of the Unfinished, but have never heard it. There's a fairly good probability that Schubert intended it as such, if only for the reason that B minor was a fairly unusual key for Schubert, making the case that a coincidence is unlikely.

(Don Tarshes)

Doundou Tchil said...

Thanks, Don !