Britten on Record: Schubert – Der Einsam; Du Bist Die Ruh; Der Musensohn; Der zürnenden Diana; Sprache der Liebe

Britten on Record: Schubert – Der Einsam; Du Bist Die Ruh; Der Musensohn; Der zürnenden Diana; Sprache der Liebe (Decca)

Peter Pears (tenor), Benjamin Britten (piano)

Studio recording: Unknown venue, July 1954

Der Einsam D800
Du Bist Die Ruh D776
Der Musensohn D764
Der zürnenden Diana D707
Sprache der Liebe D410

Background and Critical Reception

These are the earliest available recordings on Decca of Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten performing Schubert, a composer with whom they were to have an extremely intimate musical relationship.

For Decca they recorded both Winterreise and Die schöne Müllerin, as well as a number of groups of shorter songs – of which these are several examples. This particular quintet date from July 1954, right at the start of the pair’s recording relationship with the company.

Thoughts

The flowering of a special relationship between these two and the music of Schubert is all too clear in these five songs, right from the moment where Britten introduces Der Einsame, curling the fingers of the right hand around the melody while the left hand keeps a light ‘clip clop’ march going. It is a charming performance.

Emotions run high throughout Du bist die Ruh, and the closeness of the recording heightens the intensity. Britten’s piano is so responsive to the score, so well-shaped, and the two have a very instinctive ‘rubato’ that lets the music breathe perfectly. Yet the moment that makes the listener catch their breath is from Pears himself, and the control he exhibits on the rise to the highest note of the phrase ‘Allein erhellt’ (‘Alone is illumined’) is really quite something, the note held for what feels like an eternity at the top of the phrase.

Meanwhile the invigorating Der Musensohn trips along, before Sprache der Liebe again finds the upper reaches of Pears’ voice to beautiful effect. The more substantial song Der zürnenden Diana is a bracing march in heavier tone, with Pears taking command.

Spotify

Not available on Spotify.

Also recorded in 1954: Shostakovich – Symphony no.10 (Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra / Evgeny Mravinsky (Naxos)

Next up: Beethoven – Quintet for piano and wind, Op.16

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