"Hearing a familiar work in an unfamiliar tongue—in this case, Norwegian—redirects the focus of the listener. Rather than hearing in detail the usual marriage of word and note, one’s attention is turned more acutely to the general dramatic sweep of the music itself, the phrasing, the style, and the disposition of the singer. In this case it is a fortuitous experience, as the singer has a very pleasing voice, spins very graceful phrases, and makes one believe what he is saying. His vocal style is slightly reminiscent of early music, perhaps of a gamba adroitly bowed by an upward hand, producing a sweet slender intimate and expressive tone. Unlike many fashionable artists, Håvard Stensvold does not exaggerate the nuances of aRead more phrase, but modestly shapes them in a way that one guesses the sweet, modest Schubert would have appreciated. When the music is challenging technically, as in the awkward passages of Irrlicht, or the top fortes in Die Post, one could wish for a little more flexibility in the one, a little less strain in the other, but Stensvold is expressive, and in the final analysis sings well, often very well. One might wish also that he only sang, avoiding declamatory snarls and growls in the bitter, angry, and sarcastic phrases. There are too many such phrases for snarls and growls to remain effective, and the listener finds himself falling in and out of belief, hearing now a protagonist, now a performer. In earlier recordings, recordings closer to the source, one finds that singers such as Karl Erb (Historical Recordings) or Franz Navál (Symposium), who was born only 37 years after Schubert’s death, sang, and only sang. They didn’t declaim, they didn’t paint words, they didn’t snarl, they didn’t growl. This present recording, however, is still a success largely due to the artist’s rare ability to convey innocence and simplicity while observing all the subtle nuances demanded in the score. This is no small or easy matter, involving intuition, intelligence, talent, technical control, and, most likely, a personal depth of character. To my mind, only a few prominent singers possess this ability, but it is absolutely necessary for the ideal execution of Schubert’s music.
The accompanist contributes much to the recording’s success as well. His beautiful tone in Fruühlingstraum, with its carefully molded dramatic shifts, casts a wonderful spell. His introductions are evocative, and his sense of tempo, reflecting the traveler’s moods and physical condition, are well defined and convincing."