Schubert’s empathy with women is everywhere evident in his body of songs, which include songs to, by, about and for women. Devised by Carolyn Sampson and Joseph Middleton, the present recital brings us each of those possibilities and more.
The playwright Helmina von Chézy wrote the text to the tender Romanze, intending it for her play Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus to which Schubert composed incidental music. Another female author, Marianne von Willemer, wrote the two Suleika poems for Goethe, who included them (under his own name) in the collection West-östlicher Divan. And no less than seven of the other songs on the disc are also associated with Goethe, and his characters Mignon (from Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre) and Gretchen (from Faust). Schubert was for a while almost obsessed with the mysterious and waif-like Mignon, making several settings of the poems associated with her. Less of an enigma but equally moving, Schubert’s Gretchen sings of awakening desire (Gretchen am Spinnrade) and laments her coming disgrace (Gretchens Bitte).
Carolyn Sampson and Joseph Middleton have collaborated on several acclaimed projects for BIS, most recently with the counter-tenor Iestyn Davies as their companion. Here they close their Soprano’s Schubertiade with three settings of poems by Walter Scott, albeit in German translations. The three ‘Ellen Songs’ are from the verse-romance The Lady of the Lake from 1810, with the last one, ‘Schubert’s Ave Maria’, being one of the composer’s best-known and most loved compositions.
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