A nonpareil, nerd-cool presence with a sometimes internally focused stage energy, German baritone Matthias Goerne seems to be attracted to only a few operatic roles. The Metropolitan Opera has hosted him twice as Mozart’s Papageno (he skipped out on an announced Wozzeck) and the Philharmonic once as Bart—k’s Duke Bluebeard. But there’s a reason why Goerne’s recitals are welcome events: He’s never dull, always thoughtfully confronting new challenges.
Goerne’s new Schubert collaboration with the now frankly uneven pianist Christoph Eschenbach focuses on the posthumously compiled Schwanengesang, alternating moments of remarkable beauty and musical and textual insight with oddly distended, self-indulgent tempos. The Harmonia Mundi CD shows Goerne’s nearly separate methods of voice production. He can emit a haunting, hooded, almost tenorish light sound, which has helped to establish his bona fides as a suave Bach singer, but a more macho craggy voice kicks in at range extremes and high volume. He’s an expert at switching between them.
Both qualities should serve Goerne well for the fascinating program he’ll present at Carnegie Hall with magnificent Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. They’ll intersperse songs by two great 20th-century titans, Gustav Mahler and Dmitri Shostakovich: heirs to great Romantic traditions, who pioneered a kind of sampling by introducing circus, folk-song and obviously citational elements into their scores. The encounter should be gripping.