> Robert Schumann - Liederkreis, Op. 39 [JPo]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Liederkreis, Op.39 (1840) [28’15"]
Frauenliebe und leben, Op.42 (1840) [25’51"]
Tragödie I, II & III (1841-47) [6’21"] (from Romanzen und Balladen IV, Op.64)
4 Duette, Op.78 (1849) (No.1: Tanzlied; No.4: Wiegenlied) [5’53"]
Spanische Liederspiel, Op.74/4: In der Nacht (1849) [7’09"]
Nuccia Focile (Soprano)
Lucio Gallo (Baritone)
Erik Battaglia (Piano)
rec 2000 DDD
WARNER FONIT 0927 43312-2 [75’10"] Midprice


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These works were written at a particularly happy time for Schumann; he had finally overcome the resistance and opposition of his future father-in-law, Friedrich Wieck, to his proposed marriage to Wieck’s daughter Clara and they were indeed married in September of that year. This was also the year that an outpouring of melody and song was to issue from Schumann’s pen, and his happiness and longing for Clara are discernible in them.

All these offerings are well served on disc, and by singers such as Janet Baker, Fischer-Dieskau, Olaf Bär, Felicity Lott, and in the disc I have for comparison, Ian and Jennifer Partridge (BBC Music Magazine MM122 - 6/1994). There is thus considerable competition. Lucio Gallo has a wide-ranging baritone, with a pleasant tone, but is hampered by the extremely slow speeds adopted in Liederkreis, a cycle of twelve songs; this gives problems with breath control and phrasing, and I was conscious of difficulties for him in reaching the end of lines. His diction is clear (the works are sung in German) but, again because of the slowness, expression is limited. In the well-known Mondnacht, for example, he takes 5’28" as against the Partridges’ 4’12". The Partridge version moves smoothly over the music conveying peace and tranquillity, whereas Gallo always seems laboured. The accompaniment from Erik Battaglia is adequate, but again he is handicapped in his expression by the slowness in approach.

Frauenliebe und leben, a cycle of eight songs describing a woman’s feelings in love and life, has an equally distinguished recording pedigree, and here again the speeds chosen strike me as slow, although sometimes the piano is ahead of the singer Nuccia Focile. She again has a pleasant enough voice, if with more vibrato than I like in lieder singing; her diction however is not as clear as Gallo’s and there is a definite schism in temperament between herself and Battaglia. Again, and quite properly, the language used is German, but even with the text I at times had difficulty in distinguishing her words.

The other items are all duets, and unremarkable in their performance, which really sums up this disc - a run of the mill account of some lovely music, with the added drawback of slow speeds. The recording is good, and sounds faithful, but one other severe detriment I have not as yet mentioned is the booklet. This is written by Erik Battaglia, and translated into English for the introduction by N. Jamieson; the phraseology is flowery (either in translation or the original) but more serious is the lack of English words to the poems. I luckily had the words to Liederkreis in the booklet with the Partridge disc; I was able to obtain a translation for Fraunliebe und leben and In der Nacht at a very useful website called The REC Music Organisation - www.recmusic.org - which gives a host of translations of various types of music as well as lieder. Certainly, without the help I should have been lost.

John Portwood

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