Mein Traum. Schubert, Weber, Schumann

Mein Traum. Schubert, Weber, Schumann

One summer’s night, Franz Schubert had a dream so vivid, so rich in detail that he wrote it down. Mein Traum (“My Dream”), posthumously published by the composer’s brother, veers between the mundane and the supernatural. Its fragmentary images furnished Raphaël Pichon with the conceptual framework for his latest recording with French baritone Stéphane Degout. Having probed the soul’s darker reaches in Enfers, an album of sacred and secular songs by Rameau and Gluck, they turned to the stormy psychological landscapes of early Romantic song. “Schubert was an obvious choice for our second album,” the conductor tells Apple Music. “Stéphane’s among the best interpreters of his lieder. And Schubert’s dream-story contains all the big Romantic themes: metaphysical questions of identity, disillusioned love, the journey, the peace that comes with death, and so on.” Mein Traum interleaves arias from Schubert’s unfinished oratorio Lazarus—a rarity ripe for revival—and a thrilling set piece from his opera Alfonso und Estrella with the two movements of his “Unfinished” Symphony and spine-tingling arias from Weber’s Oberon and Euryanthe. The album closes with a run of pieces that delivers hope of eternal salvation, the sublime “Hier ist die Aussicht frei” from Schumann’s Scenes From Goethe’s Faust among them. Pichon chose arias that cast the baritone as the archetypal outsider and added a selection of Schubert’s choruses for women’s voices to accompany the ill-fated wanderer’s journey. “The women,” he notes, “become the companions to this solitary character, playing the roles of huntresses, mermaids, and angels.” Above all, Mein Traum explores the symbiotic relationship between love and pain, at its most intense in Schubert’s Der Doppelgänger (“The Wraith”). “It’s one of his best-known songs, which we perform in a practically unknown orchestration by Franz Liszt.” Pichon spotlights another rarely heard arrangement of familiar Schubert, too, his Ave Maria, sung with angelic purity to harp accompaniment by the conductor’s wife, the soprano Sabine Devieilhe. Pygmalion’s musicians perform on instruments or copies of instruments that Schubert would have known. “They’re softer, more intimate, and above all, more colorful than their modern counterparts,” observes Pichon. “We wanted to play this romantic music without any sentimental gestures. Every impulse rises from a theatrical perspective, depending on what’s supposed to be happening onstage, the atmosphere of a particular scene—and always with the words in mind.”

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