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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Lieder Edition I
Liederkreis, Op. 24 (1840)
(Morgen steh' ich auf und frage [01:19]; Es treibt mich hin, es treibt mich her [01:16]; Ich wandelte unter den Baumen [03:54]; Lieb' Liebchen, leg's Handchen auf Herze mein [00:48]; Schone Wiege meiner Leiden [04:15]; Warte, warte, wilder Schiffmann [02:00]; Berg' und Burgen schaun herunter [03:56]; Anfangs wollt' ich fast verzagen [00:51]; Mit Myrten und Rosen [03:54])
Romanzen und Balladen Op. 53: III. Der arme Peter (1840) [05:08]
Belsazar, Op. 57 (1840) [04:20]
Dichterliebe, Op. 48 (1840)
(Im wunderschonen Monat Mai [01:53]; Aus meinen Tranen spriessen [00:55]; Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne [00:38]; Wenn ich in deine Augen seh' [02:05]; Ich will meine Seele tauchen [00:57]; Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome [02:29]; Ich grolle nicht [01:34]; Und wussten's die Blumen, die kleinen [01:19]; Das ist ein Floten und Geigen [01:30]; Hor' ich das Liedchen klingen [02:22]; Ein Jungling liebt ein Madchen [01:15]; Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen [02:51]; Ich hab' im Traum geweinet [02:29]; Allnachtlich im Traume [01:14]; Aus alten Marchen winkt es [02:29]; Die alten bösen Lieder [04:54])
Thomas Bauer, baritone; Uta Hielscher, piano
Recorded 4-6 Oct 2004 at Reitstadtl, Neumark/Oberpfalz, Germany
NAXOS 8.557075 [62:35]




The songs on this first CD of the Naxos Schumann Lieder Edition all come from that miraculous 'year of song', 1840, when the composer's long quest for the hand of Clara Wieck was reaching a resolution. The bitter opposition of her father finally weakened, and Robert and Clara were able to plan their marriage. The unbearable prolonged strain followed by blessed release proved the perfect spur to lyric composition, and song after song simply poured from Schumann's pen. Up until 1840, he had written no more than a dozen or so, but over the next roughly twelve months, he produced more than one hundred and fifty, sometimes in extended cycles, sometimes in smaller groups, with many individual lieder too.

This disc contains his first cycle, the Liederkreis op.24, settings of poems by Heine, as are all the songs on this disc. Two individual songs follow, Der arme Peter ("Poor Peter") and Balsazar and the programme is completed by the best known of all Schumann's cycles, Dichterliebe ("A Poet's Love"). It's an instructive compilation, because you can see, or rather hear, Schumann's assurance and creativity blossoming so clearly. The seeds of the poetic intensity of Dichterliebe are there in op.24, but the composer has yet to fully emerge from the shadow of his great predecessor, Franz Schubert. By the time we reach op.48, , there is real mastery in the ability to express tenderness, confusion, paranoia, sexual hunger - the whole cocktail of powerful emotions that make up what we describe as romantic love.

How do the young German baritone Thomas E. Bauer and his partner Uta Hielscher measure up to the challenges posed by this delicately poised music? Too 'classical' and the cycle can seem precious, too 'romantic' and the whole thing can spill over into tasteless hectoring and posturing. Undoubtedly, these young artists tend strongly toward the former approach.

Bauer has a light, flexible and rather beautiful voice, high enough to deliver a thrilling top A in Ich grolle nicht. It has little bass resonance lower down - it is still a very young voice - though fortunately most of these songs have quite a high tessitura so that range isn't too much of an issue. However, Dichterliebe demands at least a hint of darkness, of emotional depth and complexity, and of these Bauer seems completely innocent. His singing is honest, straightforward, but lacking in the essential passionate intensity.

This is not a problem in the earlier songs of op.24; many of these have a blithe, folk-like quality that Bauer can do justice to. But Dichterliebe does suffer, for despite the vocal felicities, this is fairly pedestrian singing, with little sense of the inwardness of the poetry.

Things are not helped by the accompanying of Uta Hielscher. Dichterliebe calls for a musical personality at the piano which is at least the equal of that of the singer. But Hielscher's playing is quite bland, and remarkably unresponsive to the poetry in her part. How anyone can play, for example, the postlude to Wenn ich in deine Augen seh' ("When I look into your eyes") in such a prosaic manner is beyond me. The piano music that ends Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen is later developed into an ineffable epilogue to the whole cycle. But in Hielscher's hands, this music resolutely refuses to take expressive flight. Equally, when there is a need for real power and drive - as for example in the final number, Die alten bösen Lieder ("The old angry songs") - the piano accompaniment is woefully short of physical energy and dynamism. Perhaps Hielscher is wary of overpowering her singer - if so, she really needn't worry, for Bauer has plenty of decibels, and in any case the engineers have the balance well sorted. My recommendation would be that she read Gerald Moore's The Unashamed Accompanist and return to the fray thus fortified!

So, a worthy, rather than satisfying Schumann CD. I don't know how many numbers this edition is going to run to, but hopefully, as often happens, these two will get into their stride and give us something more memorable. There is an interesting and informative booklet note by Gerhard Dietel, but no texts, though Naxos have provided these on their web-site.

Gwyn Parry-Jones






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