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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Dichterliebe op.48 [28:09]
Liederkreis op.24 [19:33]
Liederkreis op.39 [25:02]
12 Gedichte von Justinus Kerner op.35 [32:43]
12 Gedichte aus Rückerts Liebesfrühling op.37: 1. Der
Himmel hat eine Träne geweint [02:04], 5. Ich hab’ in
mich gesogen [01:51], 9. Rose, Meer und Sonne [04:35]
4 Gesänge op.142: 4. Mein Wagen rollet langsam [03:56]
Der arme Peter op.53/3 [04:48]
Tragödie op.64/3: I, II [03:42]
4 Gesänge op.142: 2. Lehn deine Wang’ [00:48]
Myrthen op.25: 24. Du bist wie eine Blume [01:54],
21. Was will die einsame Träne [02:27], 7. Die
Lotusblume [01:50], 1. Widmung [01:55], 2. Freisinn [01:20],
17. Venetianisches Lied I [01:44], 18. Venetianisches
Lied II [01:11], 3. Der Nussbaum [03:09],
5. Aus dem Schenkenbuch im Divan I [00:39], 6. Aus
dem Schenkenbuch im Divan II [00:53], 25. Aus
den östlichen Rosen [01:49], 26. Zum Schluss [01:59]
Holzmair (baritone), Imogen Cooper (piano)
rec. June 1994 (opp.24, 25/21, 25/24, 25/27 (no such song
exists, probably they mean no.7), 48, 53/3, 64/1, 142/2,
142/4), October 1999 (op.39), Haydnsaal, Schloss Esterházy,
Eisenstadt, Austria; December 1998 (opp.25/2, 25/3, 25/5,
25/6, 25/17, 25/18, 25/25, 25/26), 35, 37, Jugendstiltheater,
476 9974 [72:52 + 75:34]
The Holzmair/Cooper Lieder collaboration has been held up as
perfection incarnate in some quarters. Just as well I knew
I might have thought them rather dull.
What, are they not still dull, then? Or rather, are they not perfection
Perhaps that’s the trouble, really. As I listened to the
first song of Dichterliebe a smile came to my face
and I thought this was going to be marvellous, it was all
gentle, everything so beautifully in place and, well, perfection
incarnate. But the smile became forced as it went on. It’s
rather like somebody entering heaven for the first time
and listening, entranced, to all the angels sitting on
their clouds and playing their harps, until it dawns on
him that that’s all they do the whole bloody time.
Holzmair’s basic manner is one of gentle, wistful self-communion,
conveyed with a sliver of voice apparently groping its
way forward. Occasionally he is forced by the music to
paint with a broader brush but he keeps such moments to
a minimum and even in the midst of such songs is happier
to relapse into private meditation as soon as possible.
It is non-interventionist singing taken to the nth degree
and I suppose that after a surfeit of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
you might enjoy it for a while. Imogen Cooper occasionally
shows signs of passion in the piano postludes, but her
tone is dry for Schumann and she generally keeps things
I much admired Holzmair’s recent discs in the Naxos
Schubert cycle. Maybe he has widened his range with time. Maybe
he is better
suited to portraying the inner disquiet of poor sickly
Schubert, wandering hopelessly through a world to which
he no longer belonged. Schumann was a passionate participant
in this world, never more so than when setting Heine (opp.24,
48, 53, 64, 142 and some of op.25). Holzmair appears lost
in rapt contemplation of hazel trees, lotus flowers – OK
when he really is, of course – cabbage patches, pretty
duck ponds … The passionate, pleading, adoring voice of
Schumann is not present to my ears.
Things are better in the Eichendorff settings of the op.39 Liederkreis where
the poet himself is more inclined to contemplate the natural
world, less happy still in the Kerner cycle, of which the
bleakness is better portrayed than the power. I shall return
to this set for some individual interpretations – the first
Venetian Gondola-Song is interestingly done, for instance.
Maybe one day I shall appreciate these extremely laid-back
readings more than I do now.
I last came this way when reviewing a 4-CD album of the
Schreier’s (East) Berlin recordings. I was highly critical
of the presentation but I had only praise for the singing.
Making a few comparisons I don’t think I praised it enough!
Schreier is not exactly an interventionist either, but
wherever you go you find just that little touch that brings
an extra vividness, the words that tiny bit further forward
and a more astute use of a smallish voice to create a wide
range of expression, achieving high drama at times.
Schreier is a tenor, of course. If you particularly want Dichterliebe sung
by a baritone, but a less interventionist one than DF-D,
I can recommend two superb discs which I have reviewed
for MusicWeb: Gerhaher/Huber on RCA Red Seal (82876 589952)
and Maltman/Johnson on Hyperion (CDJ33105). These are top price
issues and the latter is part of Hyperion’s complete
Schumann series. If you collect this you will get the most
detailed notes imaginable on each song, together with texts
and translations. Both baritones give wonderful performances
and lieder connoisseurs should not miss them.
But to return to Schreier and Holzmair. I didn’t have the time to
listen again to every song in Schreier’s interpretation,
so I set about sampling here and there. But when I came
to Stille Tränen, from the Kerner cycle, I just
HAD to listen to the end. There’s ten times the emotional
punch in this one song than in all Holzmair’s two CDs put
together. If Schreier had done nothing else he’d be a great
singer for this alone. So, in spite of the woefully inadequate
presentation, go to Schreier for well-nigh definitive interpretations
of most of the songs that can be sung by a male singer.
The presentation of the Holzmair is not marvellous either. The notes
by Raymond Tuttle give quite a good introduction, but there
are no texts or translations.
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