I ended up with this by accident, in the way that sometimes you go to a used record/CD store in New Jersey and you end up with things because, well, they are there and they are cheap and you have money.
So, I listened to it this evening. I was interested, but I was not what you would call stunned. I’ve liked a lot of Schäfer’s performances in the past – the standout for me is her Cherubino (that dvd of Guth’s production from Salzburg), but I also have a CD of Die Entführung aus dem Serail with her as Konstanze that I have enjoyed a great deal.
I don’t know if I would get on a plane to hear her sing lieder, however. Many of the songs on this I have heard before, and Schäfer’s renditions are consistently less exciting than the ones I am used to. “Im Frühling” is one example of this (the reference version of this in my head is Vesselina Kasarova). Another is “Die Junge Nonne” which here felt slower, and lacking in the sort of deep drama that I’ve heard, say, Renée Fleming impart to it. Schäfer does some of the longer held notes in this song without vibrato, which gives it occasionally a sort of choir-boy-y feel which, oddly enough given what the song is about, does not work, or at least it didn’t work for me.
There are parts of this recording that are really absorbing, e.g. “Der Fluss” and “Nacht und Träume,” as well as “An den Mond” D. 259 (Schubert wrote more than one song with this title). There were moments in that last where the beauty of Schubert’s music really shone. I suppose there is a spectrum, as far as song technique is concerned – on one end you have the “here is my whole soul and my bleeding heart”, a style which I am quite fond of, and on the other, you have “I am singing the song, with all the notes.” Schäfer is doing far more than just singing the songs, but she’s closer to that end of the spectrum than the other on this recording. There are moments in which – or perhaps songs for which – it works, but it’s not my cup of tea for a whole 80 minutes. Schäfer’s voice has a nice sound, but I felt like I was getting a lot of the same sound, without much variation – all the songs seemed to be pretty much the same color.