CD review: Goerne, Eschenbach, Brahms

First published in the Guardian on 30 June, 2016

Brahms: Vier Ernste Gasänge
Goerne/Eschenbach (Harmonia Mundi)

The longstanding duo of baritone Matthias Goerne and conductor/pianist Christoph Eschenbach brings well-signposted stormy grandeur to a collection of Brahms songs, culminating in a rich-hued account of the Four Serious Songs Opus 111. Occasionally bombast gets the better of Goerne — Wehe so willst du mich wieder from the Opus 32 set is all shout and bluster — and at times he overdoes the big, husky breaths that are part of his sound, like ‘em or leave ‘em. But his gravelly low notes can be glorious, his long phrases are powerful and his high pianissimos are especially poignant in Mondenschein, Opus 85. The finest-grained colours come from the piano; Eschenbach knows when to push and when to linger, and he has a lovely knack of catching Goerne at the crest of a phrase then adding his own quiet commentary.