Britten on Record: Schubert – Ganymed; Du liebst mich nicht; Lachen und Weinen

Britten on Record: Schubert – Ganymed; Du liebst mich nicht; Lachen und Weinen (Decca)

Kathleen Ferrier (contralto), Benjamin Britten (piano)

Studio recording: BBC Maida Vale Studio 2, London, February 1952

Ganymed D544
Du liebst mich nicht D756
Lachen und Weinen D777

Background and Critical Reception

‘Among the Classical Viennese composers, it was Schubert to whom Britten felt the closest,’ writes Philip Reed – ‘he even used to tell of a dream in which they met.’ Writing in the booklet notes for Decca’s substantial box set dedicated to Britten the Performer, he goes on to affirm that ‘it is in the Lieder and chamber repertoire that Britten truly excelled as a Schubertian.

The recordings of these three songs have not been made available on CD before, but were issued in 2013 as part of that set. The second song, Du liebst mich nicht, fades out twelve bars before the end but was included on the set by Decca because of its historical significance.

Thoughts

Britten’s Schubert playing is, as Philip Reed writes, one of his most admired performing disciplines, and in these three songs – his earliest recorded dialogue with the composer’s music – show a beautifully poised and wholly complementary style with which to dress Ferrier’s full coloured lines.

Ganymed is light and given with a gathering urgency, while Du liebst mich nicht is solemn and more downbeat. It is a shame the song doesn’t finish fully, fading out as the emotional climax is reached, but is nice to hear it all the same.

Finally Lachen und Weinen demonstrates the same level of intimacy and control of a partnership that sounds rather wonderful in Schubert.

Spotify

Not available on Spotify. However Britten and Pears can be heard in two of these songs shortly.

Also recorded in 1952: Stanford – Clarinet Concerto (Frederick Thurston, BBC Scottish Orchestra / Stanford Robinson)

Next up: Mozart – Piano Quartet no.2

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