Monday 12 February 2024

Personal choice: Love's Lasting Power, debut disc of Schubert lieder from duo Harriet Burns and Ian Tindale on Delphian

Schubert Lieder: Love's Lasting Power; Harriet Burns, Ian Tindale; Delphian

Schubert Lieder: Love's Lasting Power; Harriet Burns, Ian Tindale; Delphian
Reviewed 5 February 2024

With a youthful flexibility, emotionalism and sense of urgency to the performances, this is a finely engaging and thoughtful debut recital for the duo

On their first joint recording, on Delphian, long-term performing partners Harriet Burns and Ian Tindale have made a personal choice of Schubert’s lieder, exploring the theme of love, but also the friendships and relationships between poets and the composer out of which he crafted songs of astonishing empathy.

Whilst Schubert's emotional life remains somewhat obscure, with it being unclear which, if any, of his personal relationships were more than close friendships, what cannot be gainsaid is that in his music he displays a remarkable ability to respond to a range of emotional turmoil. When discussing Schubert's setting of poetry by August von Platen (whom we know to be gay from his diaries), Graham Johnson comments that 'We cannot know the exact nature, platonic or romantic, of relationships in Schubert’s circle, but his ability to empathise with Platen’s plight is profoundly moving.'

Burns and Tindale's selection involves not only songs exploring emotions arising from loving someone, but also songs setting poetry which relates to intimate friendships. At the centre of the recital is the long setting of Viola by Schubert's close friend Franz von Schober; a slightly curious poem about a tender flower who is over-eager and subsequently blighted, dying alone and ashamed. The subject must have been painfully close to the bone for Schubert in 1823 when he was suffering the first symptoms of syphilis.

However we begin in more upbeat mode with Die Liebe (Freudvoll und leidvoll), one of those songs that almost seems to begin in the middle, as if we were overhearing something longer. Burns sings with lovely long, considered lines and the song forms a fine opening showcase for her vibrant, lyric soprano. The joy in Lachen und Weinen is rather considered, Burns hints at melancholy too though Tindale's piano provides a firm backdrop of dance. This continues with Die Männer sind mechant where Burns turns fine storyteller.

Harriet Burns & Ian Tindale at recording sessions (Photo:
Harriet Burns & Ian Tindale at recording sessions (Photo:
There is a lovely vibrancy to her performance of Dass sie hier gewesen with an almost Richard Strauss-like line, supported by Tindale's sensitive piano. The youthful anxiety in Suleika I is finely drawn, along with the suggestions of Gretchen am Spinnrade.   The two performers are adept at suggesting the complexities that lie beneath, so though emotion in Wiedersehn is rather civilised, there is a hint of vulnerability too,  whilst the lyric beauty in Heimliches Lieben hides more complex yearning. Versunken is a complete whirl as the two plunge you straight in, yet this is followed by the touching vulnerability of Erster Verlust, then the youthful naivety in Amalia. 

Both Lambertine and Die Liebe hat gelogen have a rather touching quality, whilst there is an impetuosity and urgency to An mein HerzDer Jüngling an der Quelle is similarly touching, with a nice clarity and vivid piano. However, drama really comes to the fore in Der Zwerg where Burns' story telling is complemented by the dark drama in Tindale's piano.  We return to lyric melancholy in Hippolits Lied, then Du liebst mich nicht combines intimacy with urgent intensity.

It is easy to not take Viola, with its little refrain, seriously, it is frankly such an odd song. But clearly meant something to Schubert (and perhaps to Schober too). Here Burns and Tindale bring a sense of youthful engagement so it is touching and sometimes urgent without being saccharine. We end with a tender account of Geheimnis, yet with hints of stronger character in the piano, and a surprisingly joyful and dancey Seligkeit.

The selection of songs here is admirably varied, not just to the top twenty hits, and it perhaps reflects the duo's long experience of performing Schubert together (some eight years, I believe). There is a youthful flexibility, emotionalism and sense of urgency to many of the performances, and overall you feel that the two bring out the interesting colours and darker elements that underpin even the most straightforward of songs.

Harriet Burns & Ian Tindale at recording sessions (Photo:
Harriet Burns & Ian Tindale at recording sessions (Photo:

Schubert Lieder: Love's Lasting Power

1 Die Liebe (Freudvoll und leidvoll), D210 [1:36]
2 Lachen und Weinen, D777 [1:48]
3 Die Männer sind mechant (from Vier Refrainlieder), D866 No. 3 [2:36]
4 Dass sie hier gewesen, D775 [2:56]
5 Suleika I, D720 [5:15]
6 Wiedersehn, D855 [2:43]
7 Heimliches Lieben, D922 [4:23]
8 Versunken, D715 [2:16]
9 Erster Verlust, D226 [1:48]
10 Amalia, D195 [3:20]
11 Lambertine, D301 [3:14]
12 Die Liebe hat gelogen, D751 [2:35]
13 An mein Herz, D860 [3:10]
14 Der Jüngling an der Quelle, D300 [1:51]
15 Der Zwerg, D771 [5:20]
16 Hippolits Lied, D890 [2:34]
17 Du liebst mich nicht, D756 [3:36]
18 Viola, D786 [12:48]
19 Geheimnis, D491 [2:26]
20 Seligkeit, D433 [2:01]
Harriet Burns (soprano)
Ian Tindale (piano)
Recorded on 8-10 February 2023 in St Mary’s Parish Church, Haddington
DELPHIAN DCD34251 1CD [68:27]

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