Schreier Turns Mozart Lieder Into Schubert

Schreier Mozart

MOZART: An Chloe. An die Hoffnung. An die Einsamkeit. Das Lied der Trennung. Wie unglücklich bin ich nit. Dans un bois solitaire. Lied zur Gesellenreise. Die ihr des unermesslichen Weltalls Schöpfer ehrt. Die betrogene Welt. Die Zufriedenheit. Die Verschweigung. Komm, liebe Zither.* Das Veilchen. Das Traumbild. Abendempfindung. Sehnsucht nach dem Frühlinge. Im Frühlingsanfang. Das Kinderspiel. Die Zufriedenheit.* Lied der Freiheit / Peter Schreier, ten; Erik Werba, pno/*zither / Belvedere Edition 08022

As a follow-up to their reissue of Peter Schreier’s superb recording of Brahms’ Die Schöne Magelone, Belvedere Edition has released this album of Mozart lieder. Unlike the former, which was recorded in the studio in 1997, this album comes from a live recital in Salzburg in 1978 when the tenor was still at the height of his powers. This is immediately apparent from the opening track, An Chloe, where his voice sounds more easily produced, less reliant on art and more “open” in his approach—which is not to knock the Brahms cycle, which is magnificent, only to emphasize the fresher quality of his voice.

The performances also benefit from the live setting in that Schreier sounds more relaxed and therefore more able to introduce subtleties into his singing. I really love the more modern CD of Mozart songs by the somewhat little-know tenor Werner Güra with Christoph Berner playing fortepiano: they have a spontaneity about them that I find irresistible, and sound almost as if he were singing popular songs of the 18th century. Schreier is immeasurably more artistic, but in a certain sense the approach reflects an earlier, pre-historically-informed style. Now, my readers know that I dislike a lot of HIP performances, but when the result sounds natural and unmannered, I respond to it very well, and that was my reaction to the Güra disc. Nonetheless, one wonders if approaching Mozart songs as if they were by Beethoven, Schubert or Brahms is really what Mozart had in mind. His music had a simpler, more direct feel, albeit with bel canto sensibilities (listen to the old recording of tenor Alessandro Bonci’s Das Veilchen for an example of what I mean), yet a few songs into this recital and you’re hooked by the way Schreier sings them. It’s a very different sort of aesthetic, like Jon Vickers singing Purcell; perhaps not authentic, but the way it comes out is great in its own unique way.

A good example is his performance of Das Lied der Trennung. Taken at a more relaxed tempo than we’re used to hearing it today, Schreier also introduces little rubato touches—not enough to damage the line, but you keep wondering if this is what Mozart had in mind. Yet you still respond to it because it’s just so damn artistic.

I should also point out Schreier’s similarities to and differences from Fischer-Dieskau. Whereas the great baritone sometimes over-accented words in an effort to make the text sound as if it were being presented by a great poetry reader, Schreier consistently maintains a more legato line. This may seem a small thing, but a side-by-side comparison of the two singers shows how this makes the music sound a bit different. Within the limits of his small voice, Schreier also “opens up” more, for instance in Dans un bois solitaire. My sole complaint is that he doesn’t sing the mordents in Die Zufriedenheit very well, surprising for a tenor who specialized in Mozart.

So this may be non-authentic Mozart lieder, but it’s certainly very interesting.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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