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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-56)
Das Paradies und die Peri, Op. 50 (1843). Romanzen und Balladen (1849) - Der König von Thule, Op. 67 No. 1; Schön-Rohtraut, Op. 67 No. 2; Ungewitter, Op. 67 No. 4; Schnitter Tod, Op. 75 No. 1.; Im Walde, Op. 75 No. 2; Der traurige Jäger, Op. 75 No. 3; Vom verwundeten Knaben, Op. 75 No. 5; Am Bodensee, Op. 59 No. 2; Der Schidt, Op. 145 No. 1.
Edda Moser (soprano); Regina Marheineke (contralto); Brigitte Fassbaender (mezzo); Nicolai Gedda, Alva Tripp (tenors); Günter Wewel (baritone)
Chor des Städtischen Musikvereins zu Dusseldorf
Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra/Henryk Czyz (Op. 50), Hermut Schmidt (Romanzen und Balladen).
Rec in the Rheinhalle, Düsseldorf in August 1973 (Op. 50) and July 1975 (Romanzen und Balladen). [ADD]
EMI DOUBLE FORTE 5 75664-2
[118'05: 55'18+62'47]



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Schumann's secular cantata, 'Das Paradies und die Peri,' is based on a poem from Thomas Moore's collection, 'Lalla Rookh'. The Peri of the title, a demi-goddess, attempts to enter Heaven but is only allowed in on her third attempt, when the tears of a repentant sinner gain her entrance. Premiered in the Gewandhaus in December 1843 and conducted by the composer, it was (deservedly) a success. This 1973 recording presents a fine case for this piece. The recording is warm yet detailed.

No allowances need to be made for the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra, a 'second league' German orchestra. The strings phrase tenderly, rustic rhythms are captured well (as in No. 18, at the beginning of Part 3) and there are some lovely woodwind solos. A pity, then, that while Peri and chorus are appropriately joyful in the final item (No. 26, 'Freud' ew'ge Freude, mein Werk ist getan'), the orchestra appears less so.

The Chorus, Chor des Städtischen Musikvereins zu Düsseldorf, is generally excellent. Strain in the higher voices shows mainly in the tenors, but nevertheless manifests in the more stretching soprano passages. However, it is the soloists that make this piece and with names like Edda Moser, Brigitte Fassbaender and Nicolai Gedda in the line-up, this is a strong set of singers. Edda Moser displays a pure voice which can meet Schumann's most expressive demands and she also attacks high notes cleanly; Nicolai Gedda is tender, musical and fully alive to the nuances of Schumann's vocal writing. The duet between the two singers (which ends Part One) is simply magical. Brigitte Fassbaender is, perhaps predictably, outstanding, and capable of warm, gentle singing (listen to No. 15, 'Verlassener Jungling', from Part 2). Importantly, she displays just the right mix of authority and compassion in No. 19, 'Dem Sang von ferne lauschend' (Part 3). Henryk Czyz directs with well-chosen tempi and a good ear for balance (only at the end of the First Part does he allow the music to sag).

This is definitely a recommendable set, especially at the price. Gardiner (on Archiv 457 660-2) provides another notable interpretation, albeit at a higher price.

The chorus gets its chance to shine in a selection of Romances and Ballades for mixed chorus. Although they can be on the stodgy side occasionally, they provide generally well-balanced and committed performances.

Recommended for 'Peri'.

Colin Clarke


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