Apologies to all
concerned if it has taken me rather a long time to get round
to listening to this record but, quite frankly, the bind of
having to go into Internet for the texts (which, Naxos explains,
are not included so as to keep costs down, but can be found
at their Website) and then either listening to the disc with
the computer humming away in the background, clicking back and
forth between the English and German versions, or else printing
out pages of stuff which would either remain to clutter up my
house or simply be thrown away immediately afterwards, caused
me to put the disc at the bottom of a big pile. I wonder how
many other listeners will react the same way. How much more
would it actually cost to include the texts in the booklet?
Would potential buyers really be turned away by a small surcharge?
How about making the experiment of putting a lieder disc on
the market in two versions, one without texts and the other
with, at a slightly higher price, and seeing which people prefer
The upshot is that,
while earlier Naxos lieder issues, in their Schubert series,
for example, could be compared with the Hyperion series as an
equivalent product, though at a lower price, here you are clearly
getting an inferior product for your cost-cutting. I don’t know
if the Hyperion Schumann Edition has covered these works yet,
but if not I think it may be worth waiting.
For this proves
to be an inferior product anyway, since one of the singers is
very poor. Susanne Bernhard actually has a quite attractive
voice, a little shrill but each note is well-produced and even,
with a sheen of quality on it, apart from a couple of uneasy
top notes. But alas, she seems expressively completely inert,
simply ploughing through the music on a note-by-note basis with
no attempt to link the notes into phrases or to give them any
colouring or meaning. Sung like this, it is not possible to
judge whether “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt” (the second Wilhelm
Meister song) could ever match certain better-known settings
in our affections, and the last song on the disc, “O Freund,
mein Schirm, mein Schutz”, must deserve some sort of accolade
as the most boring singing on disc.
E. Bauer is better, indeed excellent. In addition to a warm
and even voice (and one capable of drama, too), he phrases the
music properly and takes care over the colouring of his words.
Whether he is so good you would want to get the record
just for him, only you can decide; a young baritone studying
some of these songs might find the disc worth buying.
Uta Hielscher collaborates
regularly with Bauer and they work very well together. With
Bernhard, she limits herself to supplying punctual support,
but what else can you do with a singer like that?
Lastly, while the
two later works are very fine, and it must be their requirement
of two singers that keeps them off the concert platform, I detected
a certain four-squareness to the Liebesfrühling, at least as
presented here, which suggests it is not quite top-flight Schumann.
about the lack of texts, I should add that Naxos do still provide
good notes. All the same, not a very essential issue, I’m afraid.
see also Review
by Göran Forsling who found more to enjoy here