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Women's lives and loves Frauenliebe und –Leben - A Liederspiel devised by Graham Johnson
Lovestruck: the first meeting

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) (arr. KIRCHNER) Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan excerpt GJ [0'53]
SCHUMANN Erste Begegnung DUET [2'02]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Ach, wende diesen Blick lines 1–3 AK [0'35]
SCHUMANN Seit ich ihn gesehen verse 1 FL [0'57]
BRAHMS Ach, wende diesen Blick lines 4–9 AK [1'12]
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903) Bitt’ ihn, o Mutter FL [1'50]
SCHUMANN (arr. KIRCHNER) Seit ich ihn gesehen excerpt GJ [1'05]
Johann Carl Gottfried LOEWE (1796 - 1869) Seit ich ihn gesehen AK [1'26]
Hopeless Adoration

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809 - 1847) Ich wollt’ meine Lieb’ ergösse sich DUET [1'46]
SCHUMANN Seit ich ihn gesehen verse 2 FL [0'41]
WOLF Was für ein Lied soll dir gesungen werden? AK [1'44]
SCHUMANN Er, der Herrlichste von allen FL [3'21]
LOEWE Er, der Herrlichste von allen verses 5 and 6 AK [1'21]
BRAHMS Mädchenlied AK [1'44]
SCHUMANN (arr. KIRCHNER) Seit ich ihn gesehen excerpt GJ [0'26]
WOLF Wohl kenn’ ich Euren Stand [1'48] FL
WOLF Wohl kenn’ ich Euren Stand lines 1–2 AK together with
ANON. after SCHUMANN Seit ich ihn gesehen lines 1–4 FL [0'24] 
Reciprocation and Betrothal

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Die Post excerpt GJ [0'56] as introduction to
GOETHE Die Wahlverwandtschaften AK reader
LOEWE Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben AK [1'11]
SCHUBERT Die Post excerpt GJ [0'27] and
SCHUMANN (arr. KIRCHNER) Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben excerpt GJ as accompaniment to
ANON. Du bist mein, ich bin dein FL reader
SCHUMANN Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben FL [1'16]; Botschaft DUET [3'48]
LOEWE Du Ring am meinem Finger AK [2'06]
SCHUMANN & Loewe Du Ring am meinem Finger verses 4 and 1 BOTH [1'14]
SCHUMANN (arr. KIRCHNER) Helft mir, ihr Schwestern excerpt GJ [1'06]
BRAHMS Das Mädchen spricht BOTH [1'20]
SCHUMANN Das Glück DUET [0'52]
Fiancées and Brides

MENDELSSOHN Gruss DUET [2'14]
WOLF O wär’ dein Haus FL [1'29]
LOEWE Helft mir, ihr Schwestern AK [3'45]
SCHUMANN Helft mir, ihr Schwestern verse 5, lines 4–6 FL [0'36]
WOLF Erstes Liebeslied eines Mädchens FL [1'18]
BRAHMS Spanisches Lied AK [2'34]
Joyful Motherhood

SCHUMANN Süsser Freund FL [4'11]
SCHUMANN (arr. KIRCHNER) Süsser Freund excerpt GJ [1'07]
LOEWE Süsser Freund verses 2–5 AK [2'28]
SCHUMANN An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust FL [1'22]
LOEWE An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust AK [1'32]
MENDELSSOHN Volkslied DUET [1'47]
Bitter loss, Love everlasting

LOEWE Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan verse 1 AK [0'57]
SCHUMANN Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan verse 1 FL [0'35]
LOEWE Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan verse 2 AK [0'52]
SCHUMANN Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan verses 2 and 3 BOTH [1'28]
BRAHMS Klänge I DUET [1'50]
SCHUMANN So wahr die Sonne scheinet [2'01]; Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan - postlude GJ [1’33]
Felicity Lott (soprano) FL
Angelika Kirchschlager (mezzo) AK
Graham Johnson (piano) GJ
rec. All Saints Church, East Finchley, London, 2-4 August 2005. DDD.
HYPERION CDA67563 [71’46]


I am not always convinced by programmes that seek to unite a number of artists and composers around a given theme. Graham Johnson puts his finger on the challenge to be faced in that there must be "some musical reason for two voices to come, and stay, together for an evening." There must be "a strong enough unifying thread" and often there is not. Johnson’s task was made all the harder by the fact that here he wanted a purely lieder programme, in German and without recourse to other musical styles. The choosing of the thread is key to the ultimate success of the recital, whether it is to be given in concert or on record.

Johnson’s thread, or "crucial idea" as he calls it, is to "follow the shape of Adelbert von Chamisso’s cycle of poems entitled Frauenliebe und –leben". His choice of that cycle offers a particularly rich musical pool to draw from, with settings by Schumann and Loewe, in addition to the arrangement of Schumann’s setting for solo piano by Theodor Kirchner. This Johnson employs most profitably to set the scene and to act as interludes at points along the way. That Johnson proves as admirably persuasive in his playing as his writing is something one cannot escape.

Persuasiveness is a factor found to a large degree in the singing of both Lott and Kirchschlager. That they have spent much time working together not just on this recording but on a wide variety of projects over recent seasons pays dividends here. Although for the most part each singer follows her own path through Chamisso’s poems, Lott singing Schumann and Kirchschlager singing Loewe, there are key points when they join in duet or separately explore repertoire by other composers. Within a succession of sequences we are taken along the life experiences of these women, who explore similar emotions yet do not – until the very end – comment upon the situation of the other.

Subtlety of textual inflection and interpretation are central to the approach of both singers, and this is much required given Johnson’s intricate ordering of the material. Oftentimes only a word or two serves to form the link between one song and another. The alert listener, following the supplied texts, is likely to pick up on them. The more casual listener will be rewarded by the inherent musicality of the performances. This is a disc that one can dip into – either listening to a sequence of songs or a song in isolation – and get much from the experience, but I recommend hearing it complete to get your bearings.

Having done just that a half dozen times now I still find that on revisiting it there is some aspect in either song or interpretation that I had not fully noticed before. Lott’s bright-toned soprano contrasts cleanly with the darker palette Kirchschlager brings to proceedings. Together they have the ability to blend effortlessly also, often displaying a remarkable similarity of tone. That the carefully balanced and clear recording maintains a distinctly chamber scale in proceedings is also much to the disc’s benefit. With the piano discretely recessed both singers are caught as if in a private salon. Shifting moods and emotional states are sketched with the finest of lines.

This is the most intelligently conceived and executed lieder disc I’ve heard for some time. Deeply rewarding; a disc to live with and love.

Evan Dickerson

 



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