14 Partsongs (Sawallisch)

Schubert: Secular Vocal Music. Soloists/ Bavarian Radio Chorus/Sawallisch; EMI

The Musical Times, Aug. 1982 (p. 553) © the estate of eric sams


This box offers too much box-office. Even the lid misleads. “Secular vocal music” means about 75% of the non-liturgical partsongs. The names “Fischer-Dieskau”, “Schreier” etc mean mere minutes of solo among whole hours of chorus, and even against such a background the stars somehow fail to shine. In this genre, Schubert serves his local community and his circle of friends. The emphasis falls on corporate feeling and action, so harmony and rhythm predominate; the individualism of melody is muted. This social music rarely lacks charm and often displays mastery; Ständchen D920 has both. But such works need a chorus of soloists to do them justice. The Bavarian choristers sound competent and agreeable enough, but rather too easy-going; someone should have noticed for example that the text of Der Entfernten D31 must read “falben” not “fallen”. The contribution of Sawallisch as pianist and conductor is mainly admirable, though the beautiful Gondelfahrer D809 seemed to me somewhat marred by a metallically clicking staccato, more like a robot than a rowboat, that Schubert surely cannot have intended. For the rest, there is a good essay on the genre by Walther Dürr; otherwise the presentation is indifferent.