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Clara SCHUMANN (1819-1896)
Ich stand in dunklen Träumen (Heine) Op. 13 No. 1 (1840) [2:32]
Sie liebten sich beide (Heine) Op. 12 No. 2 (1842) [1:31]
Walzer (Lyser) (1834) [3:21]
Der Wanderer (Kerner) (1831) [1:42]
Der Wanderer in der Sägemühle (Kerner) (1832) [2:11]
Liebeszauber (Geibel) Op. 13 No. 3 (1842) [2:17]
Volkslied (Heine) (1840) [3:27]
Warum willst du andre fragen? (Rückert) Op. 12 No. 11 (1841) [2:07]
Die stille Lotusblume (Geibel) Op. 13 No. 6 (1843) [2:37]
Mein Stern (Serre) (1846) [2:44]
Das Veilchen (Goethe) (1853) [2:01]
Die gute Nacht, die ich dir sage (Rückert) (1841) [3:16]
Der Mond kommt still gegangen (Geibel) Op. 13 No. 4 (1843) [2:55]
Ich hab in deinem Auge (Rückert) Op. 13 No. 5 (1843) [1:49]
Der Abendstern (anon.) [3:10]
Beim Abschied (Serre) (1846) [4:35]
Jörg Waschinski (soprano)
Aulos-Streichquartett Berlin (Petra Lipinski and Ulrike Wildenhof (violins); Ernst Herzog (viola); Andreas Vetter (cello))
rec. 11-15 February 2008, Concert Hall, Siemens-Villa, Berlin-Lichterfelde
Sung texts and English translations enclosed
Experience Classicsonline

Just a couple of months ago Naxos issued a disc with Clara Schumann’s complete songs. These were performed by Dorothea Crazton and I was not exactly boiling over with enthusiasm in my review. Sampling the Naxos again for this review I found no reason to change or modify my verdict. In that review I mentioned a CPO disc with Gabriele Fontana, which I haven’t heard, and a BIS recording (BIS-CD-738) with Christina Högman, who also sings songs by Fanny Mendelssohn and Alma Mahler. This Phoenix Edition disc is highly recommendable. I forgot to mention Susan Platts’s disc from less than a year ago, which is recommendable too but only includes five songs by Clara, whereas her husband Robert and friend Brahms are allotted the lion’s share of the songs (see review).

The present disc offers sixteen songs and could with advantage have accommodated the complete oeuvre - the playing time is an ungenerous 42 minutes. Still one can be grateful for what actually is here, since Jörg Waschinski has picked most of the very best songs. Another factor that has to be reckoned with is that the songs are performed in arrangements - by the singer - for voice and string quartet, which tends to soften the edges of the music, wrapping the melodies in tissue paper. There is nothing wrong with the arrangements. They are professionally written but the sonorous stringed instruments reduce the clarity of the piano - and Clara Schumann was a superb pianist - and enclose the voice in a dreamy haze. Personally I don’t mind but readers should know that this approach is a departure from the composer’s intentions. The arrangements are in the main unobtrusive and enhance the beauty of the melodies - and Clara Schumann was a marvellous melodist! Once or twice the accompaniment becomes more active, as in Der Wanderer in der Sägemühle, with plucked strings.

Jörg Waschinski is that rarity: a male soprano and just as a counter-tenor generally sounds differently from a female contralto or mezzo-soprano, so Mr Waschinski also produces sounds that most listeners probably will soon identify as typically ‘male’. The closest parallel is possibly the castratos of the 17th and 18th centuries. The only castrato I or anyone else has ever heard is Alessandro Moreschi. He recorded a number of songs at the very beginning of the 20th century and much of what he produces is plainly awful. I mention him only because readers who have heard him, or will be able to find a recording of him, will also immediately recognize the male character of his tone. Jörg Waschinski has a beautiful, focused voice with easy delivery, though the lower reach of the voice is rather weak. He has a natural vibrancy that under pressure tends to become more prominent and the voice production is somewhat uneven. I can’t say that all the sounds he produces are completely beautiful but there is a sincerity and fervour that is touching. He phrases musically and with fine care for nuance. Some listeners may need some time to adjust to the very special sound-world, just as it was those many years ago when I first heard a counter-tenor; it was Alfred Deller, by the way.

It seems that the combination of this very special and alive soprano voice and the four accompanying strings serves to bring out the beauty of these songs more effectively than ever. Walzer is elegant, Heine’s Volkslied is lovely in every respect and Warum willst du andre fragen? and Die stille Lotusblume stand out as possibly Clara Schumann’s finest melodic inspirations.

I hope that there will be another disc with the complete songs by Clara Schumann with the original piano accompaniments, more worthily representative than the Naxos issue. As things stand this very special disc, with Jörg Waschinski and the excellent Aulos-Streichquartett Berlin, definitely fills a gap in the catalogue.

Göran Forsling


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