> SCHUMANN Holzmair Cooper [CC]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Kerner-Lieder, Op. 35. Myrthen, Op. 25 - No. 1, Widmung; No. 2, Freisinn; No. 3, Der Nussbaum; No. 5, Auf dem Schenkerbuch im Divan I; No. 6, Auf dem Schenkerbuch im Divan II; No. 17, Venezianisches Lied I; No. 18, Venezianisches Lied II; No. 26, Zum Schluss. Gedichte aus Liebesfruhlung, Op. 37 - No. 1, Der Himmel hat eine Trane geweint; No. 5, Ich hab' in mich gesogen.

Clara SCHUMANN (1819-1896)

Die stille Lotosblume, Op. 13 No. 6. O Lust, o Lust, Op. 23 No. 6. Geheimes Flustern hier und dort, Op. 23 No. 3. Sie liebten sich beide, Op. 13 No. 2. An einem lichten Morgen, Op. 23 No. 2. Liebeszauber. Liebst du um Schönheit, Op. 12.
Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone); Imogen Cooper (piano).
Recorded in the Jugenstiltheater, Vienna, on December 17th-21st, 1998. DDD
PHILIPS 462 610-2 [66'48]


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Imogen Cooper, in recent concerts at the Wigmore Hall in London, proved once more her innate sensibility and musicianship. She displayed a natural affinity for the Romantic and individual sound-world of Robert Schumann (see reviews on Seen & Heard), and this impression is more than confirmed by her playing in the present issue.

The baritone Wolfgang Holzmair had, however, left me cold in a concert performance of Schubert's 'Die schone Mullerin' some time ago at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. His Schumann family interpretations in this recorded recital came as a pleasant surprise, therefore: his diction is particularly worthy of mention (it is consistently clear), and if he fails to get inside the music to the same depths as his accompanist does, this remains a fascinating and rewarding disc.

The Kerner-Lieder ('Liederreihe'), Op. 35 date from 1840, Schumann's miraculous year of song. As a recording, Op. 35 exemplifies the disc as a whole. Cooper's seamless legato in the second song, 'Stirb, Lieb' und Freud!', her carefully weighted chording in song ten, 'Stille Tranen' and her unfailing realization of harmonic direction all enchant the listener. Holzmair at his best is touching, but song 9, 'Frage', exemplifies his tendency to sit on the surface of these lieder: almost every line of Kerner's original ends with an exclamation mark, something you would never guess from just listening. Of the twelve Lieder, the penultimate 'Wer machte dich so krank?' is perhaps the most effective, evoking a quiet tension and a disturbing stillness in response to the text. Of modern recordings, this performance should sit alongside Keenleyside and Johnson on Hyperion CDJ33102.

The compositional weaknesses of the first song on the disc by Clara, 'Die stille Lotosblüme', Op. 13 No. 6, are perhaps emphasized by its juxtaposition with such a substantial chunk of Robert's music. The piano accompaniment comes across as a trifle unimaginative in comparison: if there is an insistently repeated rhythmic figure, the searching harmonic imagination of her husband seems to be what is required. The song, 'O Lust, o Lust', Op. 23 No. 6 provides some recompense, acting also as a reminder of Clara's stature as a pianist.

The subsequent interlacing of lieder by man and wife works beautifully, however. Tempi are always carefully chosen and there are some truly impressive moments: listen to Cooper's way with the quasi-improvisatory opening of Clara's Op. 23 No. 2, or Cooper's intimate web of sound in Robert's famous 'Der Nussbaum', Op. 25 No. 5.

In keeping with the carefully considered aura of the disc, it is Robert's appropriately titled 'Zum Schluss', Op. 25 No. 6, which forms a thought-provoking, haunting end to a stimulating disc.

As a programme, this is release provides a fascinating experience and forms a worthy continuation of the Holzmair/Cooper partnership.

Colin Clarke


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