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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Lieder Edition – 2
Gedichte aus Rückerts Liebesfrühling, op. 37 [21:18], Lieder und Gesänge, op. 98a [25:33], Sologesänge aus Friedrich Rückerts Minnespiel, op. 101 [17:07]
Susanne Bernhard (soprano), Thomas E. Bauer (baritone), Uta Lielscher (piano)
Recorded 10th-12th September 2003 in the Kammermusikstudio, SWR-Stuttgart, Germany
NAXOS 8.557074 [63:58]

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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 to buy?

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.  

Fortunately Thomas 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.

Having complained 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.

Christopher Howell

see also Review by Göran Forsling who found more to enjoy here




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