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Miah Persson - Portraits
Track-listing at end of review
Miah Persson (soprano), Joseph Breinl (piano)
rec. June 2010, Nybrokajen 11, Stockholm, Sweden
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
BIS-SACD-1834 [61:26]

Experience Classicsonline

‘The outstanding light-lyric Mozartian of her generation’ wrote The Sunday Times of her second recital disc. I made that disc a Recording of the Month in September 2006. The review is here. Several years before that Rob Barnett lavished praise on her debut album ‘Soul and Landscape’ with Swedish songs. Read that review here. I have reviewed a number of Mozart operas with her as well as a recording of Haydn’s Die Schöpfung and I have never been able to find anything negative to write about her singing.

‘The heir to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf?’ I jotted down on my pad after just a couple of songs on this new disc. I immediately corrected myself and added: ‘No, she is not a second Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, she is the first Miah Persson and each is unique.’ Both these singers had/have great voices, which can be enjoyed for sheer beauty of tone and technical accomplishment. Besides that they had/have the ability to make the songs and arias they perform their own, invest the texts with meaning, colour the tone to express a certain feeling, a certain mood. To take an isolated example from the Mozart recital mentioned above: Miah Persson is a typical Susanna or Zerlina or Pamina and when I saw that she also was going to sing Come scoglio, Fiordiligi’s aria, intended for a quite different voice type, I thought she was on the wrong track – but she wasn’t. I wrote: ‘A natural Susanna, one wouldn’t believe her to be “big” enough for Fiordiligi, but actually she adopts a fuller rounder voice for this taxing aria. She colours it with broad brush strokes, having enough power even in the lowest register.’

This ability is essential for a Lieder singer as well, even more so in fact. In several of Robert Schumann’s best known songs she comes into direct comparison with all the great Lieder singers of the past. I was tempted to take down a handful of established favourites from my shelves but resisted that and just listened with open mind and open ears – and was fully satisfied with what I heard. In the accompanying booklet Schumann’s tempo markings and other instructions to the interpreter are printed for each song and Miah Persson follow these to perfection. Widmung, is marked Innig, lebhaft (Sincerely, lively) and that is exactly what I hear. Lied der Braut I is marked Sehr innig and I hear even more sincerity than in Widmung. The third of the Maria Stuart songs, An die Königin Elisabeth is marked Leidenschaftlich (Impassioned) and Miah Persson’s voice radiates passion – while retaining the beauty of tone and perfect control. These five songs, composed late in Schumann’s life are not permeated by the melodic richness of the marvellous songs he created during 1840. They are rather prosaic, even ascetic, but there is a certain fascination about them and the setting of the ill-fated Queen’s own words – if they are her own words, which is a moot point. In any case they have been translated into German. They are not very frequently recorded – I have barely a handful of recordings – but of those I have heard Miah Persson’s reading is the one that goes deepest.

The biggest challenge is no doubt Frauenliebe und –leben. It seems that this has become mezzo-soprano territory and there are superb recordings with Christa Ludwig, Janet Baker and Brigitte Fassbaender. Their darker voices more easily conjure up the image of an elderly woman reminiscing about her youth. Elisabeth Schumann recorded the cycle piecemeal late in her career, her voice still glittering, but there is no doubt that it is a woman no longer young. My first record of the cycle was with Irmgard Seefried, who in the early 1960s had lost her youthful timbre and could pass for elderly, though she was still in her mid-forties. Miah Persson is still young and sounds young and in her reading the songs are no flashbacks but represent readings from the young woman’s diary where the ink has just dried. The joy, the happiness but also the tears, the pain and despair: ‘The world is empty / I have loved and lived, I am / not alive any more.’ All these feelings are depicted with deep involvement. I was very satisfied with Sibylla Rubens’ recording of the cycle that I reviewed a couple of years ago, finding it youthful, rather simple and straightforward. Miah Persson is more heart-on-the-sleeve, while retaining full control of her feelings. Her reading now joins those versions I mentioned earlier in this paragraph.

What makes this disc doubly interesting is the inclusion of seven songs by Clara Schumann. They have been recorded before, several times, but rarely sung with such beauty of tone. These are all early songs and quite simple. Later she developed to a fully-fledged Lieder composer with song line and accompaniment more organically woven together. Here the accompaniments are basically discreet and uninteresting but there is no denying the melodic inspiration. Ich stand in dunklen Träumen and Warum willst du and’re fragen are real gems. Liebst du um Schönheit is also a song to return to, though it is impossible not to compare it to Mahler’s setting of the same poem.

Joseph Breinl’s accompaniments are fully up to the quality of the singing. The recording is excellent and there are good liner notes. BIS still includes the sung texts with translations, when most other companies provide a link to the internet for download.

This disc confirms that Miah Persson is not only an outstanding Mozartean but also an outstanding Lieder singer as well.

Göran Forsling


Robert SCHUMANN (1810 – 1856)
from Myrthen, Op. 25 (1840)
1. Widmung [2:03]
2. Der Nussbaum [3:01]
3. Die Lotusblume [1:44]
4. Lied der Suleika [2:29]
5. Lied der Braut No. 1 [2:28]
6. Lied der Braut No. 2 [1:14]
Clara SCHUMANN (1819 – 1896)
from 6 Lieder, Op. 13
7. Ich stand in dunklen Träumen (1840) [2:11]
8. Liebeszauber (1842) [1:53]
9. Ich hab’ in deinem Auge (1843) [1:53]
10. Lorelei (1843) [2:10]
Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart, Op. 135 (1852) [8:34]
11. Abschied von Frankreich [1:34]
12. Nach der Geburt ihres Sohnes [1:27]
13. An die Königin Elisabeth [1:26]
14. Abschied von der Welt [2:26]
15. Gebet [1:25]
16. Volkliedchen, Op. 51 No. 2 (1840) [1:02]
17. Der Himmel hat eine Träne geweint, Op. 37 No. 1 (1840) [1:45]
3 Lieder, Op. 12 (1841) [6:47]
18. Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen [2:14]
19. Warum willst du and’re fragen [2:10]
20. Liebst du um Schönheit [2:09]
Frauenliebe und –Leben, Op. 42 (1840) [20:35]
21. Seit ich ihn gesehen [2:15]
22. Er, der Herrlichste von allen [2:45]
23. Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben [1:43]
24. Du Ring an meinem Finger [2:36]
25. Helft mir, ihr Schwestern [1:42]
26. Süsser Freund, du blickest [3:55]
27. An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust [1:19]
28. Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan [3:54]
























































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