Schwanengesang (Schreier, Olbertz)*

Schubert: Schwanengesang. Peter Schreier/ Walter Olbertz; DGG


If this so-called cycle is really a botched welding job, engineered by the firm of Haslinger (see p.878), the fracture lines appear between Rellstab and Heine in Book II; after his Abschied, the singer has an impossible costume-change from globe-trotter to Atlas. There are problems of compass as well as scope. The Rellstab songs demand actual low notes, as a sound basis for the Schubertian metaphors of depth: exhausted sleep (Kriegers Ahnung), primeval rock (Aufenthalt), a setting star (In der Ferne). Even with upward transposition these tones, and hence their overtones, seem to me to fall far short of their intended resonance.

     Of course there is some valuable compensation. An agreeable voice and sensitive articulation are admirably (if rather too unobtrusively) supported and enhanced by the pianist throughout; and this dual unity predictably achieves a quite memorable Doppelgänger. But here and elsewhere there are textual and interpretative uncertainties. I can quite see why Schreier might feel that Peters is the edition for him, as suggested by his “geträumt” for “geruht” in Kriegers Ahnung; but such obvious slips ought really to be corrected, not just sung, however expressively. With a more assured selection of texts and repertory Schreier and Olbertz will surely give us some substantial Schubert soon. Meanwhile here is a delightfully lightweight cycle, a delectably swansdown Swansong.


The Musical Times, Oct. 1975 (p. 888) © the estate of eric sams