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Robert SCHUMANN (1810 - 1856)
Dichterliebe (1840)
Alban BERG (1885 - 1935)
Sieben frühe Lieder (1905-1908)
(First recording with tenor voice)
see end review for track listing
Arnold Bezuyen (tenor), Jura Margulis (piano)
rec. 18-21 December 2011, Kammermusiksaal, Steingraeber-Haus, Bayreuth
Sung texts but no translations enclosed

There is no lack of recordings of Dichterliebe, nor is it nowadays any problem to find Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder in the catalogues. This disc however doesn’t offer the umpteenth version of the standard Schumann cycle, nor is there a comparable recording of the Berg songs.
Dichterliebe includes the twenty songs that Schumann originally wrote and offered to the publisher Peters. They cut four of them, presumably because they thought the cycle would be too long. As for the Berg songs they are commonly sung by a woman, but here we have them sung by a tenor. Arguably some of the poems could very well be related to a man.
Having been used to the common sixteen songs in Dichterliebe for almost fifty years, the additions seem like rather odd birds, in particular Es leuchtet meine Liebe (tr. 15). In its own right it is a good song and the piano part is Schumann at his most flamboyant, but it stands out. Mein Wagen rollet langsam (tr. 16) is closer to the general mood in the cycle.
Arnold Bezuyen’s approach to the songs is rather heavy, which afflicts songs like Im wunderschönen Monat Mai and Aus meinen Tränen sprießen, where one expects a lighter touch. Both songs are sung with passion and excellent enunciation. Wenn ich in deine Augen seh’ is beautifully nuanced but it is still on the ponderous side. Songs like Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome and Ich grolle nicht are more Bezuyen’s cup of tea, and here his excellent pianist grabs the opportunity to limn in some colourful backgrounds.
The lighter Und wüssten’s die Blumen goes well though I miss the nervous intensity of, say, Fischer-Dieskau. Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen dances along in rustic fashion rather than in elegance - clogs instead of ballet shoes. An inward Hör’ ich das Liedchen klingen makes amends for some lack of sensitivity in the earlier songs - and the piano postlude is fine. Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen is rustic and full-voiced but I can’t really take him to task for that - this is basically rather a simple tale. In Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen I must again praise the postlude.
The concluding songs are all fine. Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet and Allnächtlich im Traume are sensitive and Bezuyen catches the mood superbly. Aus aten Märchen and Die alten, bösen Lieder are both heavy-weighters and fare well under Bezuyen’s muscular treatment.
Coupling Schumann with Alban Berg may be seen as a bold decision but in reality it works. The Berg songs were written when he was just over twenty and not yet under the spell of Schönberg. They are no more ‘modern’ than the songs of Richard Strauss and Hugo Wolf and especially Die Nachtigall is a lovely song. I still prefer the songs with a female voice, which makes them more transparent. A lighter tenor voice would probably work better; Bezuyen presses too hard and this lessens the impact.
Something of a mixed bag, in other words, but there are many good things here, not least in Dichterliebe. For readers with limited knowledge of German it’s a pity that there are no translations of the song-texts, but they are easily accessible on-line.
Göran Forsling
Masterwork Index: Dichterliebe

Track listing
1. Im wunderschönen Monat Mai [1:39]
2. Aus meinen Tränen sprießen [0:58]
3. Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne [0:33]
4. Wenn ich in deine Augen seh’ [1:54]
5. Dein Angesicht so lieb und schön [2:43]*
6. Lehn’ deine Wang’ [1:00]*
7. Ich will meine Seele tauchen [0:58]
8. Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome [2:28]
9. Ich grolle nicht [1:41]
10. Und wüssten’s die Blumen, die kleinen [1:22]
11. Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen [1:34]
12. Hör’ ich das Liedchen klingen [2:26]
13. Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen [1:02]
14. Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen [2:36]
15. Es leuchtet meine Liebe [1:43]*
16. Mein Wagen rollet langsam [3:55]*
17. Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet [2:45]
18. Allnächtlich im Traume [1:54]
19. Aus alten Märchen winkt es [2:59]
20. Die alten, bösen Lieder [5:00]
* Removed before publishing
21. Nacht [4:44]
22. Schilflied [2:19]
23. Die Nachtigall [2:33]
24. Traumgekrönt [3:04]
25. Im Zimmer [1:22]
26. Liebesode [2:13]
27. Sommertage [1:55]