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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Liederkreis Op.24 (1840) [22.14]
Der arme Peter Op.53 No.3 (1840) [5.08]
Belsazar Op.57 (1840) [4.20]
Dichterliebe (1840) [30.53]
Thomas E. Bauer (baritone)
Uta Hielscher (piano)
recorded at Reistadl, Neumarkt/Oberpfalz, Germany, 4-6 October 2004. DDD
NAXOS 8.557075 [62.35]



The year 1840 was Schumann’s ‘Year of Song’, 140 of them. All those on this disc were written then although there is not complete certainty about Der arme Peter. The composer was thirty at the time and, despite strong opposition from her father, engaged to Clara Wieck. She was clearly the inspiration for this flood of outpouring, for though he had written some romantic songs whilst still a schoolboy, the ensuing decade of his twenties was largely devoted to piano music. ‘Ah Clara,’ he wrote on 22 February 1840, ‘what a happy thing it is to write songs; I have missed it for a long time’.

His second source of inspiration was the poet Heinrich Heine, who he met back in 1828 when doing the obligatory tour before university studies, the 19th century version of the ‘gap year’. Contrary to expectation he found Heine friendly and not in the slightest bit intimidating, perhaps because the young man was already primed with a secure knowledge of the poet’s Buch der Lieder, published the year before in 1827. It became a vital source of inspiration for the compositions written in 1840, which were song cycles, written in the case of Liederkreis with a strong emphasis upon a structural arch.

Without a doubt, however, the miracle of the year 1840 was Dichterliebe, written in a week and instantly popular. Schumann had intended to set 28 texts, but only 20 appeared of which four were deferred for some years, so we are left with 16 songs in the cycle, a kaleidoscope of moods endured by a jilted poet.

The significance of Schumann’s role in the genesis of the Lied during the 19th century, coming, as he does, midway between Schubert and Brahms, must not only be his handling of the voice but also of the piano. Increasingly it takes upon itself an equal partnership with the voice, for example when the poet’s memory of the ‘wond’rous month of May’ in the opening song is recalled at the end in the piano part.

This element of partnership between these two young artists is a strong plus on this highly enjoyable disc. Uta Hielscher fulfils her role as accompanist from the piano in supportive, colourful playing, crisply articulated and only occasionally overpowering in Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen. Schumann’s rhythmic quirks are nicely pointed up in the accompaniments, though the postlude to Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen is rather too pedantic, and lacks any sense of forward movement. Bauer’s singing is distinguished by its expressive response to Heine’s texts. The highly promising voice of this young man is not yet quite settled at its extremes, a Mario Lanza-style tenorial hint of a crack at the end of Ich grolle nicht either the best take or dubiously preferred for that very reason. His baritone qualities are lyrical rather than dramatic, at their best in the middle of the range and when the prevailing mood is one of calm serenity.

The song texts are not included with the CD but can be downloaded as PDF files online; full details are given on the rear inlay.

Christopher Fifield

see also Review by Gwyn Parry-Jones








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