and Gerold Huber have already recorded
the three great Schubert cycles for
BMGís bargain basement offshoot Arte
Nova (my enthusiastic review of "Die
schöne Müllerin" can
on the site) so their "promotion"
to RCA Red Seal is richly deserved,
indeed heartening in view of the oft-repeated
lament by the greats of the industry
that they just canít sell classical
music any more.
of words and music in "Dichterliebe"
is quite wonderful, and he receives
inestimable support from his regular
pianist. Lucky the singer who can rely
on such a close and understanding collaborator.
At the beginning of the first song Huber
sets a tender, withdrawn, "echt-Schumann"
atmosphere, lost in wondrous contemplation,
on which Gerhaher memorably floats his
first entry. In many cases their interpretative
solutions are slightly different from
any that Iíve heard before, with the
result that I seemed to be hearing the
cycle with fresh ears, yet I cannot
see that they do anything which is contrary
to the score. In "Ich grolle nicht",
for example, they have noted that it
is to be performed "Nicht zu schell"
(not too fast) and that it begins only
mezzo-forte, so Geraherís opening has
a truly speaking quality, which allows
him to build the song up gradually but
powerfully. The background dance to
"Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen"
is a wistful, almost hesitant affair,
and again, Schumann marked it "Nicht
zu rasch". I beg forgiveness if,
as a pianist myself, I draw attention
to minute pianistic points, but note
how, in "Hörí ich das Liedchen
klingen", Schumann has marked some
of the upper notes in the arpeggios
to sing for the rest of the beat, and
others to last only their semiquaver
length. You might think he is being
fussy since this music is obviously
to be pedalled so the notes will be
prolonged anyway, but Huber lets us
hear exactly which sing onward and which
donít. He also makes nifty use of the
third pedal at the end of "Aus
alten Märchen" Ė at least,
I donít see how else he could have observed
the short quaver bass notes under the
sustained chords, unless he has a Richter-like
stretch of an octave and a fifth. The
only thing is, since Schumann himself
had neither a Richter-like stretch nor
a third pedal, is this actually the
effect he wanted?
Gerhaher at times fines
his tone down to a whisper, opening
"Ich habí im Traum geweinet"
with sepulchral, vibrato-less tones.
On the rare cases when his full power
is brought forward, it is all the more
overwhelming. All in all, this can join
the classic readings of Schumannís greatest
In case you already
have one of the other classic readings
and are wondering if you need pay full
price for another, the remainder of
the disc contains far from hackneyed
material. Schumannís later, more austere
songs have not always enjoyed a good
press, but Gerhaher and Huber make a
richly rewarding experience of this
often melancholy but deeply touching
set. I did wonder if the final, wonderful
song, "Requiem" might have
been even more moving if sung with more
simplicity. Well, I had to find something
to query somewhere!
The remaining pieces
are interesting in that they find Schumann
turning his hand to unexpected subjects.
While it is perhaps Schumann the adoring
lover whom we value above all, it is
interesting to hear him dealing with
the grisly tale of the lion-tamerís
daughter, Heineís weird "Poor Peter"
and the Biblical story of Belshazzarís
feast and the writing on the wall. The
latter gives Gerhaher the chance to
pull out all his considerable vocal
We are given informative
notes in English, French and German,
plus the original texts with an English
translation; the recording has a rich
presence. In short, an issue which shows
that the high-quality classical product
is not dead yet. But it will die if
you donít buy it, so over to you.