1 Jul 2020

SCHUBERT: Eight Songs

From Podcast Classics, 12:01 am on 1 July 2020

“…the baritone Julien Van Mellaerts brings the songs to life with warmth and wit.” The Times

"James Baillieu is in a class of his own... a remarkable pianist.”– The Daily Telegraph

Baritone Julien Van Mellaerts

Baritone Julien Van Mellaerts Photo: Diana Roberts

Julien Van Mellaerts and James Baillieu

Julien Van Mellaerts and James Baillieu Photo: Supplied

Julien Van Mellaerts is a graduate of Otago University and the International Opera School of the Royal College of Music in London. He’s now fully launched on his professional career and toured the country for Chamber Music New Zealand last year, with pianist James Baillieu.

  • More about Julien Van Mellaerts
  • Julien and James chose to open their recital in Hamilton with a personal selection from Schubert’s list of over 600 songs.

    These eight songs by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) are all setting of poems by the great German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and Schubert was only 18 years old when he composed most of them.

    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Photo: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

    Long before the advent of email, Goethe complained to a friend that he received so much unsolicited correspondence that he no longer bothered replying. One writer neglected was Franz Schubert who, in 1817, had sent him some settings of his poems. These, including some of the songs here, were returned unopened.

  • More about Goethe and Music
  • Goethe was interested in music and surrounded by musicians eager to set his poetry, but Schubert never made it on to his radar (despite an eventual total of 71 Goethe songs).

    Schubert’s songs are intimate music written for drawing room performance. What became known as ‘Schubertiads’ were private concerts to a select number of invited guests in the house of one of Schubert’s admirers.

    Franz Schubert

    Franz Schubert Photo: W A Rieder, Public Domain

    In ‘Erlkönig’ (‘The Elf-king’) a father’s desperate horse-ride through the night with his terrified son is dramatised in the virtuosic piano accompaniment. ‘Rastlose Liebe’ (‘Restless Love’) is similarly turbulent. In ‘Ganymed’ piano and voice together evoke the erotic excitement of a beautiful young boy for Zeus. In the ‘Wandrers Nachtlied’ (‘Wanderer’s Nightsong’), it is the piano that creates the sense of nature at peace, before the singer magically describes it. Schubert’s treatment of Goethe’s poetry is always completely responsive to its meaning. The piano accompaniment in ‘Auf dem See’ (‘On the Lake’) evokes changing weather and rising winds. For ‘An den Mond’ (‘To the Moon’) Schubert composes tranquil outer verses framing a more animated central section where the singer remembers his lover sitting surrounded by bushes rustling in the wind by a burbling stream.

    This beautiful selection of Lieder (songs) traverses an emotional range from the calm of ‘An den Mond’ and ‘Erster Verlust’ (‘First Loss’, but also about first love) through to the jubilation of ‘Der Musensohn’ (‘The Muses’ Son). (Notes: Peter Walls)

    Recorded on 10 April 2019 in Dr John Gallagher Concert Chamber, Hamilton by RNZ Concert

    Producer: Tim Dodd

    Engineer: Adrian Hollay


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