- Schwanengesang (Swan Song), song cycle for voice & piano, D. 957
- Dichterliebe, song cycle for voice & piano, Op. 48
The performer's age matters less in Schubert's "Schwanengesang" than in his "Die Sch�ne M�llerin." That's because while "M�llerin" is a quintessentially youthful work by a composer who'd had his first brush with death, "Schwanengesang" is the essentially timeless work of a composer who'd already faced death and embraced eternity. And so a performer of mature years like Dutch baritone Max van Egmond need not fear that the inevitable wear and tear on his voice will make him ineligible to record "Schwanengesang": he's home-safe as long as his technique holds up and his interpretations touch the eternal. Thus while Egmond sounds arguably too old in his contemporary 2001 recording of "Die Sch�ne M�llerin," in this recording of "Schwanengesang" he sounds less old than seasoned, and his interpretations have the mellow wisdom of true maturity. So for example, while his "Der Atlas" sounds less strong than strained and his "St�ndchen" sounds less passionate than playful, his "Am Meer" is unbearably creepy, his "Der Doppelg�nger" is overwhelmingly scary, and his "Abschied," while frayed at the edges, is deeply affecting. The performer's age matters a lot in Schumann's "Dichterliebe." The songs ask for too much technically to be performed by any singer not at the peak of his powers and, unfortunately, Egmond is clearly past his peak. It's not that he lacks the technique -- he knows exactly what his voice can do and he does it with consummate skill -- and it's not that he lacks understanding -- he knows the tone of Heine's poems is balanced between ironic and lovesick and he communicates that tone with compelling eloquence. It's that Egmond can't quite sustain the long lines, can't quite nail the high notes, and can't quite deliver the fortissimo climaxes with the kind of power they need to succeed. So while there is much for the listener to enjoy and admire in Egmond's performance, it was perhaps unwise to record at this point in his career. Kenneth Slowik, the artistic director of the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society, is a faultless accompanist on the fortepiano -- supporting Egmond in "Schwanengesang" and sometimes covering for him in "Dichterliebe" -- and Peter Watchorn and Joel Gordon provide them with a warm and close acoustic to perform in.