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Susan Platts: Lieder
Robert SCHUMANN (1810–1856)
Frauenliebe und –leben, Op. 42 (1840) [22:35]
1. Seit ich bin gesehen [2:25]
2. Er, der herrlichste von allen [3:16]
3. Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben [1:58]
4. Du Ring an meinem Finger [2:39]
5. Helft mir, ihr Schwestern [2:04]
6. Süßer Freund, du blickest [5:13]
7. An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust [1:25]
8. Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan [3:35]
Clara SCHUMANN (1819–1896)
Lieder [10:41]
9. Ich stand in dunklen träumen, Op. 13, No. 1 [2:27]
10. Mein Stern [1:47]
11. Was weinst du, Blümlein, Op. 23, No. 1 [2:08]
12. Liebst du um Schönheit, Op. 12, No. 4 [2:10]
13. Die gute Nacht [2:09]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833–1897)
Lieder [30:29]
14. Dein blaues Auge, Op. 59, No. 8 [2:03]
15. Wir wandelten, Op. 96, No. 2 [3:11]
16. Verzagen, Op. 72, No. 4 [3:05]
17. Es träumte mir, Op. 57, No. 3 [2:51]
18. Der Jäger, Op. 95, No. 4 [1:10]
19. Das Mädchen spricht, Op. 107, No. 3 [1:30]
20. Vergebliches Ständchen, Op. 84, No. 4 [1:56]
21. Geheimnis, Op. 71, No. 3 [2:06]
22. Muss es eine Trennung, Op. 33, No. 12 [3:05]
23. Ruhe Süßliebchen, Op. 39, No. 3 [5:31]
24. Wie Melodien zieht es, Op. 105, No. 1 [2:13]
25. Meine Liebe ist grün, Op. 63, No. 5 [1:48]
Susan Platts (mezzo)
Rena Sharon (piano)
rec. Salle Françoys-Bernier, Domaine Forget (St-Irénée), Québec, 29-31 October, 1 November 2007.
Texts with French and English translations enclosed


Experience Classicsonline

At a time when the prophets of woe predict a fast decline in CD sales it is interesting to note that the art songs or Lieder are still blossoming on disc. One can wonder why. Certainly it is much cheaper to record a singer and a pianist than a singer with full orchestra. Excellent up and coming singers are thick on the ground and to become a name for a wider audience one needs a CD as a calling-card. Lieder have for several generations fascinated singers with an interest in weaving words and music. The best Lieder and Mélodies are splendid material for displaying interpretative intelligence.

I have had several new, promising or fully-fledged Lieder singers represented in my pile of review discs lately. Here is yet another, British-born Canadian mezzo, Susan Platts. Since 2004 she has been a protégée of Jessye Norman and has an international career on both sides of the Atlantic. Her biography mentions La Scala and San Carlo in Naples. When I checked on Operabase I found her listed but no opera performances scheduled and from the biography one can also conclude that she primarily appears in concert and recital. She has recorded some Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde with Gary Bertini and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. There’s also a CD with ‘dramatic sacred art songs’ with Dalton Baldwin. For ATMA she has also recorded the two songs with viola with Steven Dann and Lambert Orkis.

Her voice is characterized by a quick vibrato. Some would no doubt call it a flutter. It is however an attractive voice, closer to soprano than contralto when it comes to darkness. She is also a lyrical singer and radiates warmth. Occasionally there is some unsteadiness and once or twice on the highest notes she glares. However, in the main her singing is very assured and she shows good insight in the songs she has chosen.

The programme is cleverly chosen with Schumann and Brahms flanking the woman that meant so much to them both. Frauenliebe und –leben is a marvellous song-cycle that I have loved ever since I bought an LP featuring Irmgard Seefried in the mid-1960s. Hers is still one of the most penetrative readings with the dark expressionist version by Brigitte Fassbaender as a natural runner-up. Platts is basically at the other end of the gamut, more lyrical, more scaled down but still very much alive. The dark foreboding of Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben is well expressed and the deep tragedy of the last song Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan is depicted without histrionics, rather a sense of resignation. In between these Du Ring an meinem Finger is delicious and Süßer Freund is delightfully sensitive. There is nothing disturbing about this interpretation – and there quite possibly should be - but it is a penetrating reading even so.

Clara Schumann, like her roughly contemporaneous companion in misfortune Fanny Mendelssohn, wasn’t exactly encouraged in her composing by Robert but she persisted. The liner-notes tend to belittle her ability; in my opinion this is rather unfair. Compared to her husband she may seem inferior but listening to her five songs without preconceptions one can’t but capitulate to her fresh melodic invention and her skilfully wrought piano accompaniments. She knew the piano as well as Robert, and this is revealed by her own compositions for the instrument. Ich stand in dunklen Träumen is an extremely beautiful song and I doubt that her husband could have set it more congenially. Mein Stern is also a delicious song, while Was weinst du, Blümlein is more light-hearted. When hearing the Rückert setting Liebst du um Schönheit one can’t help comparing it with Mahler’s famous version but within her own bounds Clara Schumann is just as agreeable. Die gute Nacht, to another Rückert text, is a lovely song and it is tenderly sung here. Readers who are still unacquainted with Clara Schumann’s oeuvre are recommended to get this disc for her sake alone. For further listening Christina Högman’s disc with a number of other songs by Clara, coupled with songs by Fanny Mendelssohn and Alma Mahler (BIS-CD-738) is a splendid follow-up.

It seems that the songs of Johannes Brahms are even closer to Susan Platts’ heart. These twelve examples are from various periods and there is nothing in particular that unites them. Each and every one of them is a minor masterpiece. Brahms’ self-criticism was so strong that he hardly published anything that wasn’t masterly. Wir wandelten is superbly sung. The relative rarity Es träumte mir is lovely and Ms Platts sings it inwardly. The wonder of Vergebliches Ständchen is well depicted and Muss es eine Trennung is possibly the high point of the whole disc. Platts manages to retain the suspension throughout the song. Wie Melodien zieht es has always been one of my great favourites among Brahms’ songs. It is lovingly executed here. Platts rounds off the recital with a dramatic reading of Meine Liebe ist grün.

I am sure Susan Platts will develop further within the near future but even at this stage she is a singer to be reckoned with. I hope to hear more of her. Her pianist is excellent but I feel she is over-using the sustaining pedal at times. I have no objections to the recording but the track-list would have prospered from some proof-reading. As it is capital letters on nouns are missing while they sometimes appear on verbs. Nitpicking? Of course, but on a quality product one expects even details like these to be in order.

The warmth and sensitivity of the singing makes this a highly agreeable disc even though it fails to oust established favourites.

Göran Forsling


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