Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Dichterliebe Op. 48 (1840)
Aksel Schiøtz (tenor); Gerald Moore (piano) (recorded 10 January 1946, studio) [26:22]
Charles Panzera (baritone); Alfred Cortot (piano) (recorded 17 June 1935, studio) [25:13]
Gerhard Hüsch (baritone); Hanns Udo Müller (piano) (recorded 29, 30 January 1936, studio) [26:59]
Frauenliebe und -leben, Op. 42 (1840)
Lotte Lehmann (soprano); Paul Ulanowsky (piano) (recorded 20 January 1946, New York, live) [21:40]
Marian Anderson (alto); Franz Rupp (piano) (recorded 29, 30 March 1950, studio) [21:01]
Kathleen Ferrier (alto); Bruno Walter (piano) (recorded 7 September
1949, Edinburgh Festival, live) [20:43]
MUSIC & ARTS CD-1235(2 [78:35 + 62:24]
This is an intriguing idea, one that sometimes crops up in
discs. We have three recordings each of these two song-cycles,
so there are six singers, six pianists, four studio cycles and
two live, and none previously unreleased.
All in fact will be familiar to collectors though I fancy that
the recordings of Dichterliebe will be the most well known.
Aksel Schiøtz’s 1946 recording with Gerald Moore was last heard
by me on the big box devoted to the singer on Danacord
[DACOCD 451-460] in a transfer that preserved more shellac hiss
but also a more open sound. Tully Potter wrote the notes for
that box and reprises the job for this disc. Schiøtz had a few
years earlier recorded the cycle with Folmer Jensen but as I
wrote in my review of that Danacord box there really is very
little to choose between them. He catches the right colour of
melancholy, the shading and shaping of lines and if he never
penetrates quite to the emotional heart of things he nevertheless
provides an exemplary example of nuanced and imaginative singing.
The next singer, Charles Panzera, is known to have admired Schiøtz
almost without reservation. The baritone set down his recording
in 1935 with Cortot as his studio partner, whose playing of
the postludes, in particular, has gone down in discographic
history. This famous set preserves a performance of compelling
intimacy and understanding, marvellous colour and an avoidance
of extremes and exaggerations – one of the most centrally recommendable
of all such sets. The final Dichterliebe was recorded
the following year and features the only German pairing – that
of Gerhard Hüsch and Hanns Udo Müller. As with the Moore recording,
Müller – later to be killed in an Allied bombing raid – is a
touch reticently balanced but judged metrically he is a more
limpet like accompanist than the non-specialist Cortot. Elegant,
confident and controlled – these are some of the features of
this eminent reading, finely transferred.
The second disc offers three female voices in Frauenliebe
und -leben. Lotte Lehmann’s live recital is with Paul Ulanowsky
at Town Hall in New York in 1946. The recording was not especially
good, with a subterranean piano sound and some acetate damage,
but Lani Spahr has done his best to make it sound acceptable.
Lehmann’s very intimate, portamento-laden style is just about
audible and imparts a richly expressive though very choppily
phrased wisdom to the cycle. She was well past her best by this
point. Marian Anderson’s studio recording comes as balm after
the dingy sound accorded Lehmann. Anderson is by far the more
stoic, occasionally statuesque Schumann interpreter, less inclined
to wear emotions on her sleeve, but possessing a powerful interior
introspective quality – and that voice is heard in fine estate.
Finally we have Ferrier in Edinburgh with Bruno Walter – note
therefore that this is not the John Newmark studio recording.
The sound here is cramped but significantly better than the
Lehmann. Potter has a go at another (named) critic for the latter’s
dismissal of Walter’s piano playing but it’s surely legitimate
to point out that it is badly compromised technically, whilst
also noting its essential humanity.
There are links to the texts in the booklet, should you need
them. The two discs then, preserve six variably successful,
variably recorded documents from six singers of outstanding
qualities, though recorded again at different stages in their
own musical journeys. On the whole the Dichterliebe performances
are the more generally recommendable, for a variety of artistic
and technical reasons, but the diptych makes for imperishable
listening whatever deficiencies may also have been preserved.