The delightful story of Moritz Horn’s fairytale/idyll Der
Rose Pilgerfahrt immediately appealed to Schumann, composer
of Das Paradies und die Peri. A rose yearns to be loved
as humans are loved. The Queen of the Elves sends her (as Rosa)
to the humans, a rose in her hand acting as deposit for her
earthly happiness. She is initially turned away, but experiences
compassion while attending a funeral. An elves chorus (and of
Part I) attempts to lure her back. A grave-digger gives her
shelter overnight before a miller takes her in (Part II) - the
miller’s daughter had recently died of lovesickness and Rosa
is the dead girl’s Doppelgänger. Rosa becomes part of the village
and marries Max, the forester’s son, giving birth to a son.
Rosa places a rose in her son’s hand and dies a “death full
Perhaps better known in its orchestral version, Schumann wrote
that he deemed the piano accompaniment as sufficient. The overall
feeling is of folk-like innocence. Michael Gees is a most musical
pianist, his introductions and postludes providing much joy.
His awareness of the power of dissonance in Schumann’s postludes
is most obviously - and effectively - heard at the end of the
funeral scene (end track 8 of the present disc).
The work opens with Spring’s breezes melting Winter and ushering
in Spring, the season of love. A tenor (Prégardien) announces
the arrival of St John’s Day. Prégardien’s voice is fresh and
perfectly pitched, the ideal lead-in to the concept of Nature’s
rebirth. Similarly fresh is Anna Lucia Richter as the central
figure of the rose. The section in Part I where Prégardien narrates
the awakening of the Rosenkind (Rose-Child) is beautifully and
touchingly managed, just as is his description of Rosa’s first
experience of pain. The narration that opens the work’s second
part, too, is ideally managed by Prégardien.
Richter projects a real sense of wonder as the wandering innocent.
Her mournful exclamations as she meets Death in the form of
the funeral are most touching; her sadness in the final moments
of parting is almost palpable.
The part of the Grave-Digger is taken by the bass Michael Dahmen,
who is appropriately stony-faced in delivery as Rosa experiences
her first lessons in empathy. As he melts towards Rosa inviting
her to stay with him and relating the story of his deceased
wife, his voice takes on a real human warmth.
Unfortunately only the major soloists are listed in the obvious
places on the product itself. The choir-listing, which holds
most of the answers, tells us that Martha (who turns away Rosa
in Part I) is sung by Elvira Bill, while the Fairy Queen and
Miller’s Daughter are taken by Sibyla Müller. Julius Prégardien
is Max and Thomas Schülz is the Miller. The bass on track 19
is unidentified anywhere, as far as I can see.
The South West German Radio Chorus is delightful as a chorus
of Elves - translated as fairies in the booklet. They conclude
Part I with a quasi-Mendelssohnian lightness; harmonic twists
tell us this is Schumann’s world of fairies, however. The Male
Voices are wonderfully evocative of the forest in Part II -
with horn-calls on piano adding to the scene - while the whole
chorus exults in the marriage of Rosa and Max. It is the chorus
that has the final word, and its description of the Heavens’
calling to Rosa is blissfully managed. The whole is ably shaped
by Gerhard Jenemann, so that the dramatic trajectory is honoured.
We feel the longing of the lovers in the second part as a vital
part of the work’s journey. The duet between Max and Rosa, track
17, is a lyrical highlight. The festive joy of the wedding is
a real arrival point - lusty choral soloists, a tenor and a
baritone, imitate horn-calls for the early morning call to the
There are recordings of the orchestral version of this piece
(Gustav Kuhn on Chandos and Frühbeck de Burgos on EMI) but it
is well worth experiencing the piano version, especially when
as sensitively delivered as this. The recording is excellent
- the sound-stage is believable, with the piano naturally placed.