BARGAIN OF THE MONTH

Robert SCHUMANN (1810–1856)
Lieder and Scenes from Goethe’s Faust – 200th Anniversary Edition
Full tracklist below review

EMI CLASSICS 6090222 [6 CDs: 7:17:00]

As part of the Schumann anniversary EMI Classics’ Lieder set collects together the essential Schumann songs in performances that are in every case respectable and in some are most valuable. You also get the substantial bonus of the Faust scenes making this an economical and reliable way of building your Schumann library.

Our companion for many of the lieder is baritone Olaf Bär. One of the most experienced of modern lieder singers, he is the natural choice to guide us through most of the great cycles. His light, very beautiful voice is ideal for playing the fragile lover or the poet who is a slave to sensibility. His acting is marvellous too, inflecting every word with meaning. He lacks some of the necessary vocal darkness, though; meaning that some of the melancholy passages in Dichterliebe escape him, especially when comparing him with recent exponents such as Simon Keenlyside who darkens not only the words but also his vocal tone so as to bring the songs alive in a whole new way. Throughout, he is more successful in the more optimistic songs (such as the jollier sections of the Kernerlieder) and where a sense of tenderness is required he is very much your man – just listen to Mondnacht in the Op. 39 Liederkreis, ineffably lovely from both pianist and singer. The nature painting, particularly of the Rhine scenes, is also very effective and the final song of the Op. 24 Liederkreis carries a fitting sense of culmination. In some cases, however, the voice comes across as monochromatic and lacking in variety, so that great cycles like the Kernerlieder, while containing wonderful moments, are as a whole underwhelming, and the final pair of songs in this cycle, in particular, need more insight and conviction than Bär gives them here.

That said, I would gladly spend a very long time in the company of Bär’s voice and there are places in the set where he really thrives, not least in the third disc where he is probably at his best. The Geibel songs are full of Romantic colour and the “Painter” songs Op. 36 are refreshingly upbeat and sunny, so Bär is in his element. Furthermore each of the ballads (the majority of this disc) is very successful, Bär relishing the chance to tell every story and bring each character to life, though there are some very dark moments which work well because of the predominant optimism.

Bär is joined by Juliane Banse for the fourth disc, most of which is taken up with Myrten, Schumann’s wedding gift to Clara. This is a glorious cycle, containing examples of all that is great in Schumann: scene-painting, glorious Romantic longing and ineffable loss in turn. Banse proves a most effective partner for Bär, complementing his voice beautifully and she is at her finest in the wonderful stillness of Die Lotusblume. They even join forces for a couple of duets in the Rückert songs, each of which is a remarkable jewel. This cycle, no doubt due to the poet, is much more thoughtful than those before and in some songs, such as Rose, Meer und Sonne the piano part is surprisingly expansive. Flügel! on the other hand, seems to have a split personality with its buoyant opening and deeply thoughtful second half. This cycle is well worth exploring, not least because three of the songs are actually written by Clara.

The section of women’s songs on Disc 2 is very well chosen and, in fact, one of the set’s highlights. The benefits of Janet Baker in Frauenliebe are predictable and she does not disappoint. She brings searching intensity to this intimate exploration of female love, and the desolation of the final song is complete. She also varies the texture beautifully so that the cycle is not just about cloying sentimentality but is meditative and thoughtful as well. If anything, however, it is the contribution of pianist Daniel Barenboim that lifts this performance into the golden league. He elevates the piano line above the level of mere accompaniment so that it is every bit as probing as the vocal part, and the final moments, when the piano recalls the melody of the opening song, are heartbreaking.

Brigitte Fassbaender brings similar intensity to her songs. Her richly coloured mezzo is perfect for the melancholy Songs of Mary Stuart, bringing intensity and darkness to these brief gems. Her selection of four songs that precedes this is even finer, however: Der schwere Abend, in particular, conjures a universe of doom that I found really quite creepy and most affecting. In utter contrast, it is great to have a skittish, ever-characterful contribution from Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, sounding light and humorous in Die Kartenlegerin.

One of the set’s greatest treasures is saved for almost the very end. The Spanisches Liebeslieder is for four singers and two pianists and it is a delight. These performances were recorded live over two evenings at the 1994 Edinburgh Festival and the chemistry and sparkle of a live performance is all over them. There may be very little about them that is Spanish but the singers sound wonderful, be it individually, in duet or as a quartet: this was my favourite discovery in the whole set.

The Faust scenes, the only large-scale work here, are a tricky act to pull off as there is no connecting narrative and all we get are snapshots of Goethe’s great narrative. Furthermore, most listeners who have heard Mahler’s setting of the same text in his Eighth Symphony will find Schumann’s take on the final scene rather prissy and tame. The work remains interesting on its own terms, though. Fischer-Dieskau is rather too gentlemanly as Faust himself, but Edith Mathis has the required innocence for Gretchen and Walter Berry is convincing as the “Evil Spirit”, though less so as Mephistopheles. Nicolai Gedda’s bright, almost gaudy tenor is right for the role of the Sunrise spirit, and the other quartet of spirits are alluring while remaining suitably unpleasant. Orchestra and Chorus are good, with the Tolz Boys Choir standing out well in the texture. However most collectors will probably get more from the overt theatrics of the recent version from Harnoncourt and the Concertgebouw on RCO Live which has good singing and the zing of a live performance, even if Harnoncourt’s way with the orchestra remains very much his own.

In summary, this set can be warmly recommended to anyone wanting to explore this utterly essential corner of Schumann’s output. It’s particularly good if you’re a beginner, as it acts as a compendium of Schumann’s greatest achievements in song in performances that are at least dependable and often much more, though you’ll need a separate version of Dichterliebe and the Kernerlieder. It’s at budget price and full texts and translations are included as a PDF on the final disc. Your only reason to hesitate might be that Hyperion have just released their complete Schumann song series at super-budget price: it’s slightly more expensive than this set – though still a tremendous bargain – but it’s more complete and you may well find that the overall quality of the performances is significantly higher.

Simon Thompson

This set can be warmly recommended to anyone wanting to explore this utterly essential corner of Schumann’s output.

Full tracklist

Disc 1 [76:43]

Liederkreis Op. 39
1 In der Fremde 1:49
2 Intermezzo 1:25
3 Waldesgespräch 1:55
4 Die Stille 1:25
5 Mondnacht 4:80
6 Schöne Fremde 1:90
7 Auf einer Burg 3:13
8 In der Fremde 1:21
9 Wehmut 2:38
10 Zwielicht 2:53
11 Im Walde 1:13
12 Frühlingsnacht 1:80

Dichterliebe Op. 48
13 Im wundersschönen Monat Mai 1:30
14 Aus meinen Tränen spriessen 0:57
15 Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne 0:35
16 Wenn ich in deine Augen seh 1:58
17 Ich will meine Seele tauchen 0:55
18 Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome 2:18
19 Ich grolle nicht 1:34
20 Und wüssten's die Blumen, die kleinen 1:17
21 Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen 1:27
22 Hör ist das Liedchen klingen 2:90
23 Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen 1:10
24 Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen 2:39
25 Ich hab im Traum geweinet 2:38
26 Allnächtlich im Traume 1:11
27 Aus alten Märchen 2:17
28 Die alten, bösen Lieder 4:41

Liederkreis Op. 24
29 No. 1, Morgens steh' ich auf und frage 1:40
30 No. 2, Es treibt mich hin 1:16
31 No. 3, Ich wandelte unter den Bäumen 3:51
32 No. 4, Lieb' Liebchen, leg's Händchen 0:50
33 No. 5, Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden 4:48
34 No. 6, Warte, warte, wilder Schiffmann 2:10
35 No. 7, Berg und Burgen schau'n herunter 4:10
36 No. 8, Anfange wollt' ich fast verzagen 0:53
37 No. 9, Mit Myrten und Rosen
Olaf Bär (bar), Geoffrey Parsons (piano) 4:18

Disc 2 [75:33]

12 Gedichte Op. 35
1 Lust der Sturmnacht 1:21
2 Stirb, Lieb und Freud! 6:25
3 Wanderlied 3:10
4 Erstes Grün 2:12
5 Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend 2:24
6 Auf das Trinkglas eines verstorbene Freundes 4:27
7 Wanderung 1:11
8 Stille Liebe 3:30
9 Frage 1:16
10 Stille Tränen 4:80
11 Wer machte dich so krank? 2:10
12 Alte LauteOlaf Bär (bar), Geoffrey Parsons (piano) 2:32

Frauenliebe und -leben Op. 42 (1995 Digital Remaster)
13 Seit ich ihn gesehen 2:29
14 Er, der Herrlichste von allen 3:10
15 Ich kann's nicht fassen, nicht glauben 1:52
16 Du Ring an meinem Finger 2:50
17 Helft mir, ihr Schwestern 2:20
18 Süsser Freund, du blickest 5:90
19 An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust 1:25
20 Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getanJanet Baker (mezzo), Daniel Barenboim (piano) 4:70

3 Gesänge Op. 31 (1990 Digital Remaster)
21 Die KartenlegerinElisabeth Schwarzkopf (sop), Geoffrey Parsons (piano) 3:30

22 Tragödie II op.64 Nr.3 - "Es fiel ein Reif in der Frühlingsnacht" (2005 Digital Remaster) 1:55

23 Aufträge op.77 Nr.5 - "Nicht so schnelle, nicht so schnelle" (2005 Digital Remaster) 2:80

24 Der schwere Abend op.90 Nr.6 - "Die dunklen Wolken hingen" (2005 Digital Remaster) 2:50

Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart op.135 Nr.1-5 (2005 Digital Remaster)
25 Nr.1 Abschied von Frankreich - "Ich zieh dahin, dahin!" 1:29
26 Nr.2 Nach der Geburt ihres Sohnes - "Herr Jesu Christ, den sie gekrönt mit Dornen" 1:17
27 Nr.3 An die Königin Elisabeth - "Nur ein Gedanke, der mich freut und quält" 1:19
28 Nr.4 Abschied von der welt - "Was nützt die mir noch zugemessne Zeit?" 2:33
29 Nr.5 Gebet - "O Gott, mein Gebieter, ich hoffe auf dich!"
Brigitte Fassbaender (mezzo), Erik Werba (piano) 1:27

Disc 3 [71:35]

Drei Gedichte von Emanuel Geibel Op. 30
1 Der Knabe mit dem Wunderhorn 2:17
2 Der Page 2:35
3 Der Hidalgo 2:49

Sechs Gedichte eines Malers Op. 36
4 No. 1, Sonntags am Rhein 2:21
5 No. 2, Ständchen 1:34
6 No. 3, Nichts Schöneres 1:48
7 No. 4, An den Sonnenschein 1:34
8 No. 5, Dichters Genesung 2:30
9 No. 6, Liebesbotschaft 5:30

Romanzen und Balladen Heft I Op. 45
10 No. 1, Der Schatzgräber (Eichendorff) 2:40
11 No. 2, Frühlingsfahrt (Eichendorff) 3:30
12 No. 3, Abends am Strand (Heine) 2:58

Romanzen und Balladen Heft II Op. 49
13 No. 1, Die beiden Grenadiere (Heine) 3:37
14 No. 2, Die feindlichen Brüder (Heine) 2:22
15 No. 3, Die Nonne (Fröhlich) 2:10

16 Der Handschuh Op. 87 4:57

Romanzen und Balladen Heft III Op. 53
17 No. 1, Blondels Lied (Seidl) 4:34
18 No. 2, Loreley (Lorenz) 1:00
19 No. 3, Der arme Peter I-III (Heine) 4:42

20 Belsatzar Op. 57 4:38

Fünf Lieder aus dem Dänischen und Neugriechischen Op. 40
21 I. Märzveilchen (Andersen) 1:37
22 II. Muttertraum (Andersen) 2:36
23 III. Der Soldat (Andersen) 2:58
24 IV. Der Spielmann (Andersen) 3:16
25 V. Verratene Liebe (Chamisso)
Olaf Bär (bar), Helmut Deutsch (piano) 0:58

Disc 4 [73:46]

Myrthen Lieder Op. 25
1 I. Widmung (Rückert) 2:50
2 II. Freisinn (Goethe) 1:16
3 III. Der Nußbaum (Mosen) 2:41
4 IV. Jemand (Burns) 1:18
5 V. Zwei Lieder aus dem Schenkenbuch im Divan (Goethe) - No. 1 Sitz' ich allein, wo kann ich besser sein? 0:36
6 VI No. 2 Setze mir nicht, du Grobian 0:55
7 VII. Die Lotosblume (Heine) 1:48
8 VIII. Talismane (Goethe) 2:00
9 IX. Lied der Suleika (Goethe) 2:21
10 X. Die Hochländer-Witwe (Burns) 1:23
11 XI. Zwei Lieder der Braut (Rückert) - No. 1 Mutter! Mutter! Glaube nicht 2:11
12 XII. No. 2 Laß mich ihm am Busen hangen 1:23
13 XIII. Hochländiers Abschied (Burns) 1:31
14 XIV. Hochländisches Wiegenlied (Burns) 2:23
15 XV. Aus den hebräischen Gesängen (Byron) 4:28
16 XVI. Rästel (Fanshawe, attrib. Byron) 1:44
17 VVII Zwei Venetianische Lieder (Moore)- No. 1 Leis' rudern hier, mein Gondolier 2:50
18 VVIII. No. 2 Wenn durch die Piazzetta 1:10
19 XIX. Hauptmanns Weib (Burns) 1:10
20 XX. Weit, weit (Burns) 2:40
21 XXI. Was will die einsame Träne (Heine) 2:50
22 XXII. Niemand (Burns) 1:80
23 XXIII. Im Westen (Burns) 1:20
24 XXIV. Du bist wie eine Blume (Heine) 1:38
25 XXV. Aus den östlichen Rosen (Rückert) 1:49
26 XXVI. Zum Schluß (Rückert) 1:48

Zwölf Gedichte aus F. Rückert's Liebesfrühling, Op. 37
27 I Der Himmel hat eine Thräne geweint 2:10
28 II Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen 2:11
29 III O ihr Herren 0:56
30 IV Liebst du um Schönheit 1:55
31 V Ich hab' in mich gesogen den Frühling treu und lieb 1:57
32 VI Liebste, was kann denn uns scheiden? 2:70
33 VII Schön ist das Fest des Lenzes 1:30
34 VIII Flügel! um zu fliegen über Berg und Tha! 3:13
35 IX Rose, Meer und Sonne sind ein Bild der Liebsten mein 4:14
36 X O Sonn' o Meer, o Rose! 3:35
37 XI Warum willst du And're fragen 1:48
38 XII So wahr die Sonne scheine
Juliane Banse (sop), Olaf Bär (bar), Helmut Deutsch (piano) 2:20

Disc 5 [68:19]

Faust Szenen zu Goethes Tragödie für Soli, Chor & Orchester
1 - Ouvertüre 7:38

Faust Szenen zu Goethes Tragödie für Soli, Chor & Orchester, Erste Abteilung
2 Nr.1 Szene im Garten (Du kanntest mich, O kleiner Engel, wieder) 4:43
3 Nr.2 Gretchen vor dem Bild der Mater Dolorosa (Ach neige, Du Schmerzensreiche) 4:11
4 Nr.3 Szene im Dom (Wie anders, Gretchen, war dir's?) 6:39

Faust Szenen zu Goethes Tragödie für Soli, Chor & Orchester, Zweite Abteilung
5 Nr.4 Ariel. Sonnenaufgang (Die ihr dies Haupt umschwebt) 17:28
6 Nr.5 Mitternacht (Ich heiße der Mangel. Ich heiße die Schuld) 12:19
7 Nr.6 Fausts Tod (Herbei! Herbei! Herein! Herein! Ihr schlotternden Lemuren) 15:19

Disc 6 [70:37]

Faust Szenen zu Goethes Tragödie für Soli, Chor & Orchester, Dritte Abteilung, Nr.7 Fausts Verklärung
1 I. Waldung, Sie schwankt heran 3:80
2 II. Ewiger Wonnebrand 2:00
3 III. Wie Felsenabgrund mir zu Füßen 5:41
4 IV. Gerettet ist das edle Glied 10:18
5 V. Hier ist die Aussicht frei 4:70
6 VI. Dir, der Unberührbaren 7:35
7 VII. Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis 9:30
Faust – Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (bar)
Gretchen – Edith Mathis (sop)
Mephistopheles – Walter Berry (tenor)
Ariel – Nicolai Gedda (tenor)
Sorge – Barbara Daniels (sop)
Marthe – Hanna Schwarz (sop)
Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, Bernhard Klee (conductor)

Spanische Liebeslieder Op. 138
8 Vorspiel (pf: 4 hands) 1:43
9 Tief im Herzen trag ich Pein (S) 2:18
10 O wie lieblich ist das Mädchen (T) 1:56
11 Bedeckt mich mit Blumen (S,A) 2:34
12 No. 5, Flutenreicher Ebro (bar) 2:50
13 Intermezzo (pf: four hands) 1:50
14 Weh, wie zornig ist das Mädchen (T) 1:24
15 Hoch, hoch sind die Berge (A) 2:14
16 Blaue Augen hat das Mädchen (T,B) 1:45
17 Dunkler Lichtglanz (S,A,T,B)
Barbara Bonney (sop)
Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo)
Kurt Streit (tenor)
Olaf Bär (bar)
Helmut Deutsch & Bengt Forsberg (piano duet) 2:13

4 Lieder und Gesange aus dem Lyrischen Intermezzo im buch der Lieder - (original version of "Dichterliebe" from 1840)
18 No. 5 - Dein Angesicht 2:40
19 No. 6 - Lehn' deine Wang' 0:41
20 No. 15 - Es leuchtet meine Liebe 1:46
21 No. 16 - Mein Wagen rollet langsam
Thomas Hampson (bar), Wolfgang Sawallisch (piano) 3:11

Simon Thompson

This set can be warmly recommended to anyone wanting to explore this utterly essential corner of Schumann’s output.