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Robert SCHUMANN (1810–1856)
Frauenliebe und Leben, Op. 42 [22:04]
Tragödie, Op. 64 No. 3 [4:47]
Liederkreis, Op. 24 [21:17]
3 Heine-Lieder [8:00]: Abends am Strand, Op. 45 No. 3 [3:22]
Lehn deine Wang’ an meine Wang’, Op. 142 No. 2 [0:47]
Mein Wagen rollet langsam, Op. 142 No. 4 [3:51]
Brigitte Fassbaender (mezzo)
Irwin Gage (piano)
rec. Studio Lankwitz, Berlin, October 1984. DDD

I have yet to hear a recording by Brigitte Fassbaender in which she is not superlative; this re-issue of her 1984 Schumann recital trumps the “Eloquence” issue previously glowingly reviewed by my MusicWeb International colleague Göran Forsling by virtue of its inclusion of German texts and English translations.

This is a voice which breathes passion. Her wonderfully sonorous lower register is balanced by the delicacy and agility of her upper range. We hear very little of the slight loosening of the vibrato which crept in later in her career and bothers some listeners. She has a gift for finding the emotional heart of every song she sings; even in songs of the utmost brevity and the widest stylistic variety of the type encountered here, she instantly adapts her voice to find the right mood. This is particularly true within the highly individuated “Frauenliebe” songs – a tricky cycle to pull off given the submissive adoration of the female voice adumbrated by Adelbert von Chamisso’s poems and not one you would think especially suited to Fassbaender’s assertive vocal layout. Nevertheless she manages to disguise its mawkishness via the sheer conviction of her singing. Another notable example of her skill in colouristic inflection may be heard in her delivery of the third “Liederkreis” song, where she quickly switches to adopting the birds’ voices in “Es kam ein Jungfräulein gegangen”.

Her crystalline diction is a great asset to aiding communication in the poems of greater quality by Heine and her equal partnership with long-time accompanist Irwin Gage lends another dimension, as you may hear from passages such as the long, eloquent postlude for piano in the last song on this recital.
Ralph Moore



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