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Robert SCHUMANN (1810–1856)
Kerner-Lieder - Lieder Edition 4
Hans Jörg Mammel (tenor), Uta Hielscher (piano)
rec. Theodor-Egel-Saal Freiburg, Germany, 21-24 November 2006
Sung texts and translations can be found at
NAXOS 8.557077 [61:19]
Experience Classicsonline

Zwölf Lieder, Op. 35 nach Gedichten von Justinus Kerner [30:55]
1. Lust der Sturmnacht [1:23]
2. „Stirb, Lieb’ und Freud’!" [6:23]
3. Wanderlied [2:49]
4. Erstes Grün [1:56]
5. Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend [2:21]
6. Auf das Trinkglas eines verstorbenen Freundes [3:34]
7. Wanderung [1:10]
8. Stille Liebe [2:57]
9. Frage [1:16]
10. Stille Tränen [2:51]
11. „Wer machte dich so krank?" [2:04]
12. Alte Laute [2:12]’
Fünf Lieder und Gesänge, Op. 127 [10:15]
12. 1. Sängers Trost (Kerner) [2:15]
13. 2. Dein Angesicht (Heine) [2:31]
14. 3. Es leuchtet meine Liebe (Heine) [1:54]
15. 4. Mein altes Ross (Strachwitz) [2:39]
16. 5. Schlusslied des Narren (Shakespeare) [0:56]
Vier Gesänge, Op. 142 [8:51]
18. 1. Trost im Gesang (Kerner) [1:55]
19. 2. Lehn’ deine Wang’ (Heine) [0:47]
20. 3. Mädchen-Schwermut (Bernhardt) [2:29]
21. 4. Mein Wagen rollet langsam (Heine) [3:39]
Jugend-Lieder nach Kerner, WoO21 and 10 [11:17]
22. Im Herbste [1:16]
23. Kurzes Erwachen [2:07]
24. An Anna I [3:58]
25. Gesanges Erwachen [2:08]
26. An Anna II [1:49]

Justinus Andreas Christian Kerner (1786–1862) may not be amongst the most important German poets but he was regarded as one of the most inspired of the Swabian school. His house became ‘a mecca for literary pilgrims’ after he had settled in Weinsberg where he spent the last half of his life as a practising physician. Besides his poetic activities he wrote several books on medical topics, among other things about animal magnetism. A frequent guest in his home was Nikolaus Lenau and another – though hardly for literary merits – the dethroned Swedish king Gustav IV Adolf. Kerner’s poetry often deals with natural phenomena. His poems are deeply melancholy but also quite frequently permeated with humour, reminiscent of folk-song.

The young Robert Schumann got to know some of Kerner’s recently published poems in 1828 and inspired by them he set five of them to music in June and July that year, when he was eighteen. In this he was encouraged by Agnes Carus, a doctor’s wife whom he used to accompany in songs and with whom he fell in love. These songs were not published during his lifetime. Three of them were included in a supplementary volume of the Schumann Complete Edition, edited by Brahms in 1893. Some of his other early compositions didn’t reach the general public until well into the 20th century. These songs are certainly interesting as germinal material for one of the most important collections of German art-song.

Schumann returned to Kerner in his maturity as a song-writer in 1839/40 with the Twelve Lieder Op. 35, dedicated to the poet. ‘Kerner’s poems attracted me most of all for their mysterious heavenly power …’ he wrote to the Kapellmeister Gottlieb Wiedebein, whose settings of some Goethe and Jean Paul poems were early inspirations for him. The Twelve songs are not exactly a cycle in the sense that Dichterliebe, Frauenliebe und –Leben and the Liederkreis are but Schumann anyway managed to find a tonal language that makes them belong together. The level of inspiration was constantly high during this Lieder period and even though the Kerner songs are not heard very often, they are well worth the attention of the Schumann lover who has heard Dichterliebe, Die beiden Grenadiere and other of his ‘greatest hits’ and wants to explore further. The march-like Wanderlied (tr. 3) and Stille Tränen (tr. 10) are immediately attractive and the rest of the songs will surely become favourites, once heard. The Opp. 127 and 142 groups were also composed in the ‘Year of Song’ but not published until later, Op. 142 posthumously. They contain only one Kerner setting each, but there is much else of interest among them.

A good Lieder singer must be able to narrate a story or visualize the poet’s description of a landscape or a situation, to express feelings. A beautiful singing voice isn’t out of place either but expressivity is more important than beauty. Dramatic opera singers can sometimes be splendid Lieder singers but sometimes they crush the little intimate song between shining Wagnerian shields. I often prefer a smaller-voiced lyric tenor with flexible voice and ease in the pianissimo singing. Hans Jörg Mammel, who was a new name to me, although he is obviously well represented in the record catalogues, fits in neither of these two camps. He has a bright, powerful voice and would certainly like to be a lirico spinto, singing Rodolfo, The Duke of Mantua, maybe Max in Der Freischütz. His metallic top notes point in that direction. But he also sings pianissimo with honeyed tone, though it isn’t quite clear whether he sings some notes with head-voice or resorts to falsetto. Anyway he sometimes comes dangerously close to being mistaken for a crooner. At the other end of the spectrum he tends to overdo things, to press the voice unduly. Even though there is a certain thrill in his singing he becomes clumsy too often. In Sängers Trost (tr. 13) the tone is pinched and Es leuchtet meine Liebe (tr. 15) is hooty. There is enthusiasm a-plenty but he hasn’t yet settled as a Lieder singer. Too much of this feels – well, immature isn’t quite the word but certainly it is sprawling.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t good things here. Erstes Grün (tr. 4) is balanced and he keeps the voice in check. Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend (tr. 5) isn’t bad either. In Stille Tränen (tr 10) he has good intentions but the voice production is too uneven. Alte Laute (tr 12) is among the best efforts, marred just occasionally by some bad intonation. Of the Op. 127 songs the short Shakespeare setting Schlusslied des Narren (from Twelfth Night) (tr.17) is really good. Bernhardt’s Mädchen-Schwermut (tr 20) from Op. 142 is nuanced and balanced. He also scales down and sings simply and unaffectedly in Kurzes Erwachen (tr 23) from the early Kerner songs.

Uta Hielscher, who has been the pianist on all the issues in this series so far, once again shows that she is an excellent accompanist. She is especially successful in the strangely limping stop-and-go accompaniment to the Heine setting Mein Wagen rollet langsam (tr 21) which also has an unusually long postlude.

The recording cannot be faulted and there are good informative notes by Gerhard Dietel, but the texts have to be downloaded from the internet.

There are some good things here but as a whole this disc cannot be recommended. The best alternative is Thomas Hampson with Geoffrey Parsons at the piano (review). They include only the Kerner songs from Op. 127 and 142 but on the other hand they give us the Fünf Lieder Op. 40, settings of Hans Christian Andersen in German translation by Adalbert Chamisso. This is Lieder singing of a kind that very few artists, historical or present day, can challenge. The disc, recorded in 1989, was re-released a couple of years ago at mid-price.

Göran Forsling




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