Matthias Goerne, Illuminating the Soul's Dark Night

By Tim Page
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 18, 2004; Page C01

The baritone Matthias Goerne's concert … was both beautiful and disturbing. Beautiful -- for Goerne's immaculate technical command, the liveliness and fluency of his phrasing, and the dark, burnished warmth of the voice itself. And disturbing, because Goerne is an artist who takes the late songs of Schubert -- heart-rending, desolate music written by a young genius who was dying fast -- absolutely seriously, with all that entails.…

[Goerne's]…Schubert always seems on the verge of that same Bergian mania … shatteringly effective in songs like "In der Ferne" and "Am Meer," which explore the human soul as it might exist at absolute zero. When the last note of "Der Doppelganger," the final song on the program, died out, there was absolute silence for several seconds, a far more appropriate compliment to what Goerne had just accomplished than rote applause would have been.…

Pianist Alexander Schmalcz was a full partner in the evening's success, playing with an unbridled fancy that complemented Goerne's efforts exactly.

It was instructive to compare Goerne's stage manner with that of some other recent recitalists. He makes no effort to maintain statue-like decorum; rather, he bobs and weaves like a boxer, darting his eyes nervously around the stage, as if battling with demons…

The program was presented by the Vocal Arts Society, which should be very proud of itself today.

BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

An die Ferne Geliebte, Op. 98
Texts by Alois Jetteles (1794-1858)

1. Auf dem Hügel sitz’ ich spähend
2. Wo die Berge so blau
3. Leichte Segler in den Höhen
4. Diese Wolken in den Höhen
5. Es kehret der Maien, es blühet die Au
6. Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder

SCHUBERT (1997-1828)


Texts by Ludwig Rellstab
1. Liebesbotschaft
2. Kriegers Ahnung
3. Frühlingssehnsucht
4. Ständchen
5. Aufenthalt
6. Herbst
7. In der Ferne
8. Abschied

Texts by Heinrich Heine
9. Der Atlas
10. Ihr Bild
11. Das Fischermädchen
12. Die Stadt
13. Am Meer
14. Der Doppelgänger