The complete guide to Franz Schubert, part three: vocal music – Gramophone

In the last of a three-part series, Hilary Finch talks about Schubert’s vocal music with singers Brigitte Fassbaender, Christa Ludwig, Ian Bostridge and David Wilson-Johnson and pianists Graham Johnson and David Owen Norris

October 1814. Napoleon had retreated from Moscow, abdicated and gone off to Elba. In Vienna, Schubert was feverishly composing songs at the rate of at least two a day. On October 19th, he wrote Gretchen am Spinnrade. And the rest – for six weeks – was silence. Having written Gretchen, it was as if he drew back from the abyss, alarmed at what he had begun. Graham Johnson is convinced that this was for Schubert an epiphany of his own genius. “And he was simply dazzled by it.” Schubert, and the Lied itself, was never to be the same again. His own swan-song, Die Taubenpost, was to come only 13 years later, but in the wake of 600 Lieder, 18 stage works, 45 pieces of…

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