Robert SCHUMANN (1810- 1856)
Dichterliebe, Op. 48 [26:28]
Liederkreis, Op. 39 [25:04]
Suzanne Danco (soprano), Guido Agosti (piano)
rec. 1949, West Hampstead Studios, London (Dichterliebe); 1952, Victoria Hall, Geneva (Liederkreis)

Belgian soprano Suzanne Danco (1911–2000) had an important career during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, both as an opera singer and as recitalist. Her operatic repertoire was not large but stylistically wide, ranging from Gluck and Mozart to Britten, Berg and Stravinsky. She was especially well suited to French repertoire — she recorded Pelléas et Mélisande with Ernest Ansermet — and as a concert singer she also excelled in French melodies. I particularly remember her Cherubino in the complete Le nozze di Figaro under Erich Kleiber (Decca) from the mid-1950s – one of my first opera recordings.

Between 1947 and 1956 she made twenty-two song recordings for Decca, the majority with pianist Guido Agosti. The two cycles on the present disc were her only Schumann recordings. Her singing was by some critics seen as rather cool and reserved and even Gramophone’s Alec Robertson, quoted in the liner notes to the disc, finds her “cool”. I never felt that for her Cherubino but thought her rather aggressive in the opening song of Dichterliebe: Im wunderschönen Monat Mai. It took me some time to come to terms with her readings, even though she is sensitive and sings with feeling for the texts. Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet (tr. 13) is especially deeply felt. The more dramatic and heavy songs - Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome, Ich grolle nicht, Die alten, bösen Lieder – seem to elude her. It might be that we are used to hearing a male voice. In particular baritones can more readily achieve the weight of tone we expect. On the other hand I never have any problem with this when listening to Lotte Lehmann in these songs. I wholeheartedly admire Danco, however, in the more intimate songs, for instance Die Rose, die Lilie and still more Allnächtlich im Traume. Agosti’s accompaniments are excellent — Robertson thought he was “in the Gerald Moore class” — and the 1949 recording has been transferred with splendid results from rare 78s. The cycle was also issued on a 10” LP, but it is unclear whether it was transferred from 78 matrices or a master tape.

Liederkreis was recorded three years later but is in no way sonically better than Dichterliebe. Alec Robertson in his original review complained about the balance, finding the piano recorded too distantly. Andrew Rose has apparently found a better balanced vinyl copy, since I have no complaints at all and can unimpededly enjoy Agosti’s playing. Ms Danco opens with a lovely Mondnacht. Generally speaking the whole cycle seems more natural territory for her. Each song appears to have settled, become more assimilated than some of the Dichterliebe songs. Best of all is Schöne Fremde, which requires to be heard by all lovers of good Lieder singing.

There are no texts and translations but most readers and prospective buyers probably have one or more recordings of these cycles, with texts, already and for those who haven’t they are easily available online.

A warm welcome back to circulation – this is the first ever appearance in the digital age.

Göran Forsling
Track listing
Dichterliebe, Op. 48:
1. Im wunderschönen Monat Mai [1:15]
2. Aus meinen Tränen spriessen [0:51]
3. Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne [0:33]
4. Wenn ich in deine Augen seh [1:28]
5. Ich will meine Seele tauchen [0:50]
6. Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome [1:52]
7. Ich grolle nicht [1:43]
8. Und wüssten’s die Blumen, die kleinen [1:10]
9. Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen [1:18]
10. Hör‘ ich das Liedchen klingen [1:56]
11. Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen [0:59]
12. Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen [1:59]
13. Ich hab‘ im Traum geweinet [2:01]
14. Allnächtlich im Traume [1:33]
15. Aus alten Märchen winkt es [2:21]
16. Die alten, bösen Lieder [4:41]
Liederkreis, Op. 39:
17. In der Fremde [2:05]
18. Intermezzo [1:51]
19. Waldesgespräch [2:26]
20. Die Stille [1:26]
21. Mondnacht [3:30]
22. Schöne Fremde [1:20]
23. Auf einer Burg [2:44]
24. In der Fremde [1:54]
25. Wehmut [2:29]
26. Zwielicht [2:47]
27. Im Walde [1:16]
28. Frühlingsnacht [1:14]