Matthias Gorne (baritone) and Alfred Brendel (piano)


Winterreise - Schubert

Piano Sonata in B flat, D960 - Schubert

The most keenly-anticipated recital of the Belfast Festival was the uncommonly rich all-Schubert programme offered at the Waterfront Hall last night by the rapidly-rising German baritone Matthias Gorne and that veteran Schubertian, Alfred Brendel.

The Gorne/Brendel partnership lived up to expectations. From the very opening, it was clear that Brendel was not going to cast the piano into a subservient, accompanimental role with the primary aim of accommodating the singer. The pianist's fundamental commitment would be to the music not the voice.

The steady tread of the first song, "Gute Nacht", set the pattern of rhythmic trajectories that were tight and independent, and around which the singer would persuasively negotiate his chosen freedoms.

Unlike Austrian baritone Wolfgang Holzmair, whose Winterreise was heard in Dublin a few years ago, Gorne's is a strongly illustrative delivery. He paints vividly the swirling subterranean torrent at the end of "Auf dem Flusse", the weary tramp of "Rast" and the piercing self-pity of "Einsamkeit". But, unlike Holzmair, he doesn't suggest that he has himself lived every moment of torment.

The voice, more tight than round, but capable of exquisite softness, tenorish on top and richly extended at the bottom, is a thing of wonder. Throughout the demanding cycle it never failed to deliver anything he asked of it.

Brendel's view of the late B flat Sonata is in one way the epitome of moderation - none of the sometimes encountered extremes of tempo (apart from an unusual winding up towards the end of each half of the first movement) or dynamic, and instead a feeling of easeful expression, as if the prevailing marking were "semplice" and all the niceties were to be uncovered with subtle touches of colour and the gentlest modes of inflection. The effect was magical, enrapturing.