Not true, not true!


John Reed's mammoth 'The Schubert song companion' is a valuable addition to Schubertian scholarship: a comprehensive compendium of all the songs, with all their finished and unfinished variants. But having found myself in frequent disagreement with his opinions of the songs, I wonder if he ought not to have consulted some singer friends about some of his crueller dismissals — or had he perhaps no access to performances or even recordings of some of the more obscure songs? At any rate, his summary dismissal of Minona ("...shows Schubert's early conception of the ballad in its loosest and, to modern ears, least attractive dress") is wide of the mark. What, after all, is a modern ear? A song either works or is doesn't. Time and again Michel Stas and myself score signal successes with these great ballads. People like 'em. Lodas Gespenst comes in for kinder treatment, 'remarkable for the proto-Wagenerian quality of the writing'; Die Nonne (not to be confused with Die junge Nonne) is dismissed as seeming "no more than an interesting curiosity". Horse feathers! Lots to excite the listener. The lovely Der Jüngling auf dem Hügel comes in for the same treatment, where we read that "Hüttenbrenner's conventional gloss on the well-worn theme of youth, love and death inspire for the most part conventional responses from Schubert." Well now, it's a luvverly song. At the same time songs which I believe should elicit positive responses from the audience (Sehnsucht der Liebe, Die Sterbende) fail to do so (at least that was my impression after a recent performance.) Perhaps Reed's palate is a little jaded, and perhaps my lifelong devotion to the performance of the songs has blinded me to Schubertian faults. Viewed in this light the performers' responsibility to reveal the best of a song is redoubtable.

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