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Schubert: Schwanengesang / Terfel

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 16, 2000
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Editorial Reviews


Having burst upon the music scene like a force of nature, Bryn Terfel has experienced an ascent to fame that is truly meteoric--and no wonder. His voice is like dark, warm velvet, incomparably beautiful, effortlessly produced, flawlessly controlled; it can float with tender delicacy and build up to climaxes of earth-shaking power. Its range of color and inflection is unlimited. Though he recorded Schwanengesang while still in his 20s, there is no doubt of Terfel's empathetic feeling for these somber, dark, often bleak, despairing songs, written toward the end of Schubert's life in failing health and desperate circumstances. Terfel's way with them is deeply, intensely expressive, but sometimes rather overstated. He favors slow tempos and lavishes meticulous attention on both textual and musical details, including a lot of "word painting," which, though his diction is exemplary, betrays a learned rather than a native relationship to the language. His tonal inflections are more indigenous to opera than song, so listeners accustomed to the German school of lieder singing may miss the directness and simplicity of, for example, Wolfgang Holzmair's recording. The latter's performance is also deeply expressive and moving, but more of the cycle seems flowing and inward, letting the music speak for itself and the poems--especially the inferior ones--take care of themselves. Terfel's customary pianist (Malcolm Martineau) is a splendid collaborator, sensitive to every nuance and wonderful in his solos. --Edith Eisler

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Liebesbotschaft ('Rauschendes Bächlein'), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/1
  2. Kriegers Ahnung ('In tiefer Ruh'), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/2
  3. Frühlingssehnsucht ('Säuselnde Lüfte'), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/3
  4. Ständchen ('Leise flehen meine Lieder'), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/4
  5. Aufenthalt ('Rauschender Strom'), song for voice and piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/5
  6. In der Ferne ('Wehe dem Fliehenden'), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/6
  7. Abschied ('Ade!, du muntre...'), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/7
  8. Der Atlas ('Ich unglückselger Atlas'), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/8
  9. Ihr Bild ('Ich stand in dunkeln Träumen'), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/9
  10. Das Fischermädchen ('Du schönes Fischermädchen'), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/10
  11. Die Stadt ('Am fernen Horizonte'), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/11
  12. Am Meer ('Das Meer erglänzte'), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/12
  13. Der Doppelgänger ('Still ist die Nacht'), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/13
  14. Die Taubenpost ('Ich hab' eine brieftaub''), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 965a (D. 957/14)

Product Details

  • Performer: Malcolm Martineau
  • Composer: Franz Schubert
  • Audio CD (May 16, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Marquis Classics / Sain
  • ASIN: B00004SSHV
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,191 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Santa Fe Listener HALL OF FAME on January 3, 2006
I am not an ardent fan of Fischer-Dieskau, but all his considerable abilities were lavished on Schwanengesang. I kept his early EMI recording as a standard for years, but now we have three excellent alternatives--Bo Skovhus on Sony, Thomas Quasthoff on DG, and this early Terfel recording on an obscure Welsh label, Sain. Of the three, Terfel is the powerhouse. His huge dramatic baritone is unleashed in many songs--for heroism and sheer vocal thrills he has no match. But this giant can also walk on air and tenderly break your heart.

Still in his twenties when he made this CD in 1992, Terfel was three years past his win at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition--a wonderfully hyprebolic title for a hyperbolic singer. Everything here is totally heart-on-sleeve, and Terfel's passions spill over the boundaries of the lied. No matter. His musical instincts are completely natural and unforced, just the thing Schubert requires. Happily, the recent wobble in his voice and his tendency to self-parodied histrionics are nowhere in sight. Malcolm Martineau gives a world-class accompaniment, far beyond Gerald Moore for F-D.

All in all, if you have been looking for a great lieder singer with a ravishing voice, something F-D never had, this CD stands high on the list.
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Although this album gives no exact recording date, it may be worked out from the notes that it was made in late 1991 when Terfel was only 26 and still known as the Lieder Prize singer from the Cardiff Singer of the World competition and runner-up to Hvorostovsky in the main event.

Immediately striking is the clarity and idiomatic quality of Terfel's German diction and the dynamic range of his voice. He can thrill the listener by expanding his tone is such a manner that no-one would even then have been surprised to learn that Wotan lay in his future repertoire, yet he can scale his voice down to a caressing pianissimo. Just occasionally this puts his superb partner, Malcolm Martineau, slightly in the shade, acoustically speaking, but there are plenty of opportunities to appreciate the delicacy and subtlety of the pianist's phrasing, especially in such songs as the celebrated "Ständchen".

I have a number of favourite versions of this song collection - not really a cycle - including those by Brigitte Fassbaender, John Shirley Quirk and Jorma Hynninen but despite the youth of the singer this one has claims to being the best of all if you like an account which is really sung out full voice, in quasi-operatic style but also at times startlingly intimate. Terfel is able to dominate these songs and touch the brassy vault of heaven then stoop to caress the listener's ear with a dreamy half-voice.

The songs themselves run a surprising gamut of expression but tend to draw heavily on typical Romantic tropes which conflate nature with love and death, employing pathetic fallacy as a metaphor for the lover's emotions.
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This CD is one of the best Lieder CDs i know. Bryn Terfel's voice is very fresh and beautiful, and his range of expression quite amazing. The piano playing is equally fine and fully matches the singing. It is my favourite gift CD, instead of party flowers to friends who love singing.
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By A Customer on June 19, 2000
Terfel displays an understanding of Schubert that transcends most of the mediocre attempts that have preceeded. I highly recommend this C.D., it is a fresh, albeit different, look at this well-known cycle.
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