Mellifluous Schumann from Baritone Matthias Goerne

For his fourth Schumann disc since the 1998 Dichterliebe; Liederkreis collaboration with Vladimir Ashkenazy, the great German baritone Matthias Goerne joins pianist Markus Hinterhäuser in a 19-gem collection of heart-touching songs by Robert Schumann entitled Einsamkeit (Solitude). The singing on the Harmonia Mundi recital is gorgeous throughout, and the repertoire deeply communicative. This is especially the case in hi-rez from HDtracks, where the duo's artistic brilliance shines strongest.

Einsamkeit's repertoire choices are less anguished than on many of Goerne's Schubert Edition recitals for the same label. Among them are a number of Schumann's most beloved lyrical creations, not least of which are "Du bist wie eine blume" (You are like a flower), "Die Lotusblume" (The Lotus blossom), and "Meine Rose" (My rose).

While Goerne previously recorded 11 of the collection's 19 songs with Eric Schneider in the fall of 2003—these were released on their Schumann Lieder collection for Decca—the new versions, set down in Berlin in the spring of 2015, are mostly preferable. Goerne's voice may be a bit darker and huskier than of yore, and growl just a bit when declaiming at high volume, but it still radiates the melting sweetness that makes his softer singing so heart-touching, vulnerable and appealing. In addition, Hinterhäuser's piano is given far more sonorous authority lower in the range, and both artists benefit from a more spacious and resonant environment that better flatters their artistry.

There have also been some major changes in tempo. "Meine rose," for example, better coheres when taken faster (from 4:51 to 4:24), while the title song, "Einsamkeit," grows more profound by the addition of almost a minute (from 2:59 to 3:57). Goerne's version of "Meine Rose" may be significantly slower than Carolyn Sampson's on her 2016 R2D4 recital, Fleurs (Flowers), but it also better conveys the sadness of Nikolaus Lenau's poetry.

In general, for a singer known for his sometimes-controversial choice of slow tempi, the shift has been to an even slower pace. Those willing to slow down and listen rather than throwing up their hands in disgust as they cry, "Bring back Fischer-Dieskau," will discover that the slow tempi allow Goerne to sink even deeper into Schumann's emotional landscape.

Taking the time, in fact, is the operative term here. If art song has declined in popularity with the rise of TV and video productions, and the concomitant plummet in music education, it still benefits from a fair helping of brilliant artists who find the intimacy of song most revealing of their interpretive gifts. But since the bulk of great art song composed prior to the advent of Britten, Finzi, Copland, Barber, Rorem, Bolcom, Heggie, and others for whom English is their native language, is in German, French, Spanish and Russian, those who do not speak those languages fluently must rely on printed translations.

Alas, the number of folks who do not wish their music spoon-fed to them, and are willing to sit with translations in hand, is not that large. Witness the decline in art song recitals in the United States, even in the major music capitals of San Francisco and New York.

Should you have read this far, you are probably among the happy minority that cares. To both you and the eternally curious who are reading this, I cannot emphasize enough how beautiful these songs are, and how lovingly they are presented. If art song needs caretakers, Goerne is one of the most gifted and considerate.

In addition, the most profound of the duo's song choices, including "Einsamkeit," are truly wondrous creations. That only a few songs are up-tempo makes the declamatory heart of "Ins Freie" (Into the Open) and the dramatic proclamation of "Requiem" all the more striking. But whether Goerne and Hinterhäuser are virtually transfigured, as they are in "Nachtlied" (Night Song), or tearing up, as they are in "Was will die einsame Träne?" (The solitary Tear), their spiritual integrity makes their artistry indispensable to anyone who seeks, in art, truths about human existence and the universe in which we reside.

dalethorn's picture

I trust my first impressions, and the perfect accompaniment by the piano here was an instant like. There's a lot of music I've had to grow into, but not this time, and maybe it's the sense of being close-up at a private recital. Funny thing - I have a fixed income and a paid-up Netflix subscription, but I'd rather drop $18 on this for an evening's entertainment, not to mention future listening.

Edit: I bought the 1990 Mahler / Fischer-Dieskau album reviewed here some time ago, and while it's indeed very different from this music as noted above, it has a good bit of the Teutonic boisterousness I experienced on occasion during my days in Germany.

bob stern's picture

eClassical has some key advantages over HDtracks:

1. You can buy whichever individual tracks you desire and pay the same pro rata price per minute as for the entire album.

2. You can preview each track in its entirety before buying. (You must click the play button every 30 seconds to keep it going.)

3. Each day a different BIS album is offered at half-price.

4. Better search engine for classical. (After doing a quick search, click the Show button to the right of Refine Search to see options.)

Note that the $13 price is a new release 25% discount from the normal price of about $17.30, which is still slightly cheaper than HDtracks.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

eclassical's offering of this recording not being listed at, I checked the link. It says that "Studio Quality" can include 24-bit FLAC stereo, 16-bit FLAC stereo, and MP3 stereo! Since I presume that you've downloaded this album, can you verify that it is indeed 24/96? From what I've read, as well as from the price, I'm not convinced that it is.

I must say that lumping all three of the above resolutions under a single "Studio Quality" rubric is, to my way of thinking, wrought with deception. Nowhere on the page is the true resolution of the files indicated.

Here's a file size-check for you. In 24/96 wav, the first track, "Meine rose," is 152.5 MB. If you have a Mac, it's easy to convert flac to wav using XLD. In FLAC, it's 77.5 MB after conversion.

dalethorn's picture

Interesting - you can even snag the liner notes PDF without buying anything. It looks tempting that prices are so cheap, but it would be great to read their backstory to judge their long-term viability. A major beef I've had with HDTracks the past couple of years is the "Album only" thing, when some albums (pop mainly) are mostly filler. Looking around, it seems nearly all of those are HDTracks' decisions, and it's a rare album that allows single track downloads. Yet the verbiage "Buy individual tracks" is right there in big lettering on all listings, then you see "Album only" on each track. Personally, I wouldn't put that verbiage there in customers' faces in "Album only" cases, because it's bad PR.

bob stern's picture

Jason said: "It says that "Studio Quality" can include 24-bit FLAC stereo, 16-bit FLAC stereo, and MP3 stereo!"

That's intended to mean that when you pay for a Studio Quality download, you have the option of downloading the two lower quality formats in addition to the Studio Quality format. (In fact, there are no time or repetition limits on downloads, so if your music library gets wiped out months later, you can re-download all your eClassical purchases.)

Yes, I purchased this wonderful album and confirm that the Studio Quality download is 24/96 FLAC.

eClassical uses the term Studio Quality to mean 24-bit FLAC, but the sample rate usually is unspecified. That is an irritating shortcoming. If your decision whether to buy an album depends on its sample rate, I can think of 3 options: (1) email your question to; (2) buy the cheapest track and check its sample rate before buying the album; or (3) buy the album and, if you don’t like it, request a refund under their unlimited satisfaction guaranty.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

The clarification is greatly appreciated.

dalethorn's picture

I bought the album Many Are The Wonders (Harmonia Mundi) just now from eClassical. Their page for that album says "Orig. sample rate 96000 hz" under the label information, above the words "24 FLAC" etc. The tracks are actually 44100 hz FLAC. I checked HDTracks, and their entry was labeled 44.1 khz - the only option. So I wasn't cheated, but I can see where some users would be misled.

bob stern's picture

I wonder how often updates their database and how accurate it is. I bought this album on April 1, so you'd expect it to be listed by now.

saxman73's picture

I bought this on eClassical. The files are 96/24. The record is really great. I saw Matthias Goerne live last year, he was extraordinary and this album does justice to his artistry. The sound is very good. I highly recommend it.