Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 14 – Thomas Hampson
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It was Schubert's great ambition to write an opera for Vogl of course—he eventually did so in 1819 with Die Zwillingsbrüder, which had a limited success. In a way it is difficult not to see a number of these classical songs as audition pieces, meant to convince Vogl that here was a fine young opera composer waiting to be discovered (and commissioned!). This produces strong-boned music of noble line and import, which lacks however the special relationship of insight and commentary between voice and piano of which Schubert is elsewhere capable. Despite this feeling that one is playing from a vocal score rather than a Lieder album, the music is always inventive and strong. The opening chords give Orestes/Vogl a splendidly rhetorical entrance line over a four-bar orchestral phase which repeats in sequence a fourth higher. This is music worthy of a king, albeit a harassed and weary one. The third and fourth lines of this verse are a measured recitative in E flat minor which would have given Vogl ample opportunity for grisly word-painting; the depiction of a touch of madness always his speciality. The next two verses describe the surroundings—one vista in G flat, the next in B. The vocal line is always regal, the accompaniment as spare as the bleak, inhospitable topography. The beautiful descending vocal line in B major of 'Steine fügt die Kunst' is repeated by the piano, this time in D major, as an introduction to the fourth verse; it is then reincorporated into the voice part as we are led to the heart of Orestes' dreams and hopes. The tiny, almost diffident postlude seems to say 'Who knows?—To be continued!'
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1991