Don't be taken in by the title. Schubert didn't actually write a set of Four Seasons. Mezzo-soprano Sharon Carty and responsive pianist Jonathan Ware have made a personal selection of nine songs to create their own individual, utterly unhackneyed Schubertian journey through the cycles of the year. Surprisingly, although there are 65 minutes of music, there are just nine songs. The ones chosen to open and close the sequence take close to half an hour between them.
The “flower ballad” Viola (Violet), D786, tells of the forlorn fate of a flower in spring. The cantata Klage der Ceres (Ceres’s Lament), D323, sets Schiller’s retelling of the Greek myth of the creation of the seasons. Critical opinion is divided about these two substantial challenges but Carty approaches both with distinctive and persuasive composure. Her manner is at once direct and reserved. The voice is always well-controlled, and expressed with a spareness of gesture that often carries a suggestion of some kind of underlying loss or regret.
The drama may be limited, but the unobtrusive musicianship is at the same time very engaging. Sample the best-known songs – Ganymed, D544 and the Romanze from Rosamunde – to see how you find the approach. The other songs are Die Sommernacht, D289, An den Mond in einer Herbstnacht, D614, Litanei auf das Fest Allerseelen, D353, Greisengesang, D778, and Der Winterabend, D938.