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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, Op. 48 (1840) [30'53]
Thomas E. Bauer (baritone); Uta Hielscher (piano).
rec. Reitstadl, Neumarkt/Oberpfalz, Germany, 4-6 October 2004. DDD
Notes included; texts and translations available at www.naxos.com/libretti/schumannlieder1.htm.
NAXOS 8.557075 [62'35].

I'm not sure I agree with web-based texts and translations. Print them out, it's ungainly; sit with them on the screen, the screen better be in the best place so one can enjoy the recording quality. You can't win.

Thomas Bauer and Uta Hielscher are regular partners, apparently, yet there is an imbalance. Hielscher is more alive to the music's nuances than Bauer.

The programme is a brave one with such famous fare on offer. The Op. 24 Liederkreis sets the scene. The recording itself is rather close, with a touch too much added reverb. The interpretation rarely takes one close to the heart of Schumann; best are the first song - delicate, with care from both interpreters - and the penultimate: the short, 'Anfangswollt' ich fast verzagen'. A shame that the final Lied, 'Mit Myrthen und Rosen' fails to conclude the cycle convincingly, despite both parties' best efforts.

Der arme Peter works much better - flowing nicely, with a lovely, delicate piano. Belsazar acts as dramatic contrast. The 'horn figures' in the piano's left-hand are superbly evocative. This is the best performance so far, and yet there is a problem still in that some of the range seems too low for Bauer's baritone, a setback that is to return in Dichterliebe's finale lied.

No shortage of great interpreters for Schumann's Op. 48, so a performance that is merely good, even at this price, really has no place. There are many effective and affective moments here, yet little sense of the greatness of this music. Furthermore, the more the cycle progressed the more I found myself listening to Hielscher's piano playing, almost to the extent at times of blocking out the voice. Hielscher provides many moments of magic - try the cheeky piano postlude to the penultimate lied as but one example - but where is a pianist in this repertoire without her soloist?

This is hardly a meeting of equals, then, and very difficult to recommend despite Hielscher's evident musicality.

Colin Clarke

Gwyn Parry Jones had a similar view in his review but Christopher Fifield found more to enjoy.



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