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Reviews: Bei dir allein! - Schubert Songs - Camilla Tilling, Paul Rivinius

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Site review by Geohominid April 21, 2012
Performance:   Sonics:    
A first disc of Schubert lieder is a milestone in the career of any soprano. Camilla Tilling and Paul Rivinius formed an excellent Lieder partnership in their Richard Strauss programme (Rote Rosen - Camilla Tilling), so expectations are high. Evidently the dramatic experiences of her burgeoning international opera career and the fruits of many live lieder recitals have honed Camilla Tilling's Lieder skills, for here she goes beyond her Strauss disc to show she can colour her voice and dig deep for the emotions in Schubert's finely-wrought songs.

Her programme too is not just a procession of pretty, well-known tunes, but an intelligent selection which explores the subtle nuances of Schubert's setting of often mediocre poetry, ennobling the verses for posterity. The theme of this carefully planned programme is, of course, Love. But Schubert's poets were keen to explore Love in its several aspects; longing and desire, requited and unrequited. Death and its relationship to Love is also another preoccupation of the composer, and this too is explored in Camilla Tilling's selection. Tilling and Rivinius range widely in Schubert's collection of solo songs, often pairing those from disparate periods, so as to compare or contrast their subjects. There are examples of all Schubert's song structures - strophic, through-composed and even a short ballad.

The titular song, 'With you alone!' (a rapturous portrait of an impulsive maiden's desire to be alone with the beloved) is given appropriately Tilling's shining, light spinto voice. The next piece, 'Delphine's Song' features a similarly love-lorn girl, but such is her devotion of the object of her desire that her thoughts turn towards the thought of her death should the love or lover be lost. Tilling and Rivinius darken their expression most sensitively, and Tilling pings an ecstatic high note just before the end with perfect effect. The great Suleika songs are also given loving care. It is immediately obvious from Tilling's first bar that this is a serious song; repeated, restless circling piano figures depict the cool, unsettling nature of the East wind. It is asked, is there news of the distant beloved borne upon it? Suleika II is dominated by the West wind, mild and gentle, and the maiden asks the wind to send a message to her lover - all underpinned with a happy trotting piano accompaniment. For this song, Tilling uses tone with a soft lyrical warmth which is most appropriate.

Another example of Tilling's use of vocal colour is 'The Dwarf;' a balladic narrative in which a Queen who jilted a dwarf is captured by him and taken away to her death, leaving the dwarf to rove the world aimlessly. Tilling gives a spine-tingling portrayal of the smitten dwarf's voice as he casts the Queen into the sea, while Rivinius provides a vivid and inventively played picaresque accompaniment. The 'Grave-digger's Homesickness' offers another dramatic performance, with Tilling deploying her chest voice, stern and unyielding. Rivinius does the energetic digging, with big, deep semi-staccato spade chords.

At the centre of the track-list is 'Gretchen at the spinning wheel', Schubert's first masterpiece of astounding maturity at his tender age of 17. Immediately we feel the Faustian tension of Gretchen's plight from both singer and pianist, as she sits spinning, heart-sick and afraid. The climax, as Gretchen recalls the kiss of her beloved, is powerfully done in a very vivid performance.

There are many such felicities in this album, one of which is the atmospheric recording in the singer-friendly acoustic of Potton Hall, Suffolk, a well-known recording venue. The BIS 88.2kHz/24bit capture has a very wide dynamic range and great clarity. Presentation is exemplary as usual for BIS, with the texts in German and English, plus a thought-provoking and informative essay on the music by Horst A. Scholz.

A striking first Schubert disc then, with fine performances from partners Tilling and Rivinius. Highly collectable!

Copyright © 2012 John Miller and SA-CD.net