Britten on Record: Schubert – Die Taubenpost; Der Einsame; An die Laute; Harfenspieler I; Der Musensohn; Du bist die Ruh; Geheimes; Die Stadt (Decca)
Peter Pears (tenor), Benjamin Britten (piano)
Studio recording: Unknown venue, 29 April 1959
Die Taubenpost D957/14
Der Einsame D800
An die Laute D905
Harfenspieler I D478
Der Musensohn D764
Du bist die Ruh D776
Die Stadt D957/11
Background and Critical Reception
Some more studio recordings of Peter Pears and Britten in individual Schubert Lieder, in which they revisit a number of songs first set down on record in 1954.
This selection begins with Die Taubenpost, often performed as an epilogue to Schwanengesang and speculated to be Schubert’s final song. It is my personal favourite in the composer’s output (so far at least!), and here enjoys an affectionate performance, with the payoff between Pears’ phrase and Britten’s twinkling right hand figure – depicting the messenger pigeon – one to savour.
Britten and Pears’ second recording for Decca of Der Einsame is very slightly quicker, and has a pronounced lean on the left hand in Britten’s figurations.
The charming An die Laute is next, the lightest of waltzes, before its polar opposite, Harfenspieler I, Pears drawing himself up to his full height to deliver the declamatory opening. It is a stern, proud song. Another version of Der Musensohn trips along, while a second account of Du bist die Ruh (again the first was in 1954, also for Decca) again reaches rapturous levels of intensity as Pears works his way gradually to the highest note, hovering with impeccable control.
The eight-song selection ends with Geheimes and finally an excerpt from towards the end of Schwanengesang. Die Stadt is one of the cycle’s darkest songs, and Britten’s piano sends a chill through the blood with the quick rise and fall of the right hand. Both performers seem to have Mahler in mind as the song reaches its gruesome climax.
Not available on Spotify.
Also recorded in 1959: Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (Columbia)
Next up: Haydn – Violin Sonata in G major Hob.XV:32