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Robert SCHUMANN (1810 – 1856)
Peter Schreier (tenor), Norman Shetler (piano)
rec. 1972-1974, Studio Lukaskirche, Dresden, Germany
Sung texts available on line.
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94694 [4 CDs: 69:22 + 65:54 + 60:46 + 60:22]

I don’t think I exaggerate if I state that Peter Schreier, among tenors, was the pre-eminent interpreter of German Lieder during the second half of the twentieth century. His voice, in particular during the late part of his career, wasn’t the most beautiful – there were several lyric tenors in his generation that were his superior in that respect. However, his verbal acuity, his ability to adjust the colour of the tone in order to express feelings and atmosphere and his sense for nuance set him apart from almost any other singer during that period. And the period was long indeed. As early as June 1945, only a couple of months after the destruction of Dresden, he became a member of the famous Dresdner Kreuzchor — he was soon to celebrate his tenth birthday. He then became a soloist and within a couple of years also a recording artist, until his voice broke in 1951. From then on he studied to become a professional tenor and made his debut in August 1959, when he took the role of the First prisoner in Fidelio. He left the opera stage in June 2000, after a career of almost 39 years, but continued as a concert singer, until 22 December 2005 when he both conducted and was the Evangelist in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in Prague. During these years his voice changed surprisingly little and listening again to a disc with Schumann’s song-cycles, recorded in 2002 it is actually difficult to decide which version was recorded in 1972 and which in 2002.

I heard him in Dichterliebe in Stockholm well-nigh twenty-five years ago and found his approach very much to my liking. Listening now to this reading, recorded some twenty years earlier, when he was still a fairly young man, I reacted to the surprisingly slow tempo in Im wunderschönen Monat Mai. Comparing this with an old favourite of mine, Danish tenor Aksel Schiøtz, who recorded the cycle with Gerald Moore in 1946, I found that Schreier took half a minute longer for a song that even in Schreier’s tempo lasts only 1:43; this is a considerable difference. When I proceeded through the cycle I noted that in most songs their timings were almost identical, but in some key songs Schreier was markedly slower: Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome, Hör’ ich das Liedchen klingen and even more Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen, where Schreier is a full minute slower, clocking in at 2:43. Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet also differs a lot. In the final song, Die alten, bösen Lieder, the difference is again a whole minute, but that is a very long song, 5:20 in Peter Schreier’s reading. What matters more than timings is however how the listener experiences these differences. Is Schreier dragging? No - that is not my feeling. His deep involvement and the hushed intensity in his declamation invest the text and music with such importance that any criticism is silenced. Schiøtz’s reading is perfectly valid in its own right, and so is Schreier’s. Just out of curiosity I took out another dozen recordings and checked timings and the outcome of this was that Schreier is extremely slow in several of the songs mentioned above. An even more illuminating comparison was with his own last (?) recording of Dichterliebe, made in 2002 with András Schiff. The singer was then 67 and as fresh of voice as thirty years earlier and – lo and behold – all these songs I discussed above were markedly faster. Die alten, bösen Lieder took 3:59 — a good deal faster. All three versions are enormously satisfying, Schiøtz the more overtly beautiful, but beauty of tone is less important in Lieder than in opera. We need only remember an even older tenor than Schiøtz, possibly the best Liedersinger before the second world war, Karl Erb. He was also more concerned with interpretation than with pure beauty. He never recorded Dichterliebe but it is worth the effort to search out his recordings of Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Wolf from, mostly, the late 1930s. He was around 60 then but interpretatively on the same level as Schreier. A two-CD set on Preiser (PR89208) is well worth tracking down.

The gist of the discussion above is that differences in approach need not imply differences in quality. This Dichterliebe should satisfy even the most discriminating connoisseur. This also goes for the other two cycles, Liederkreis Op. 24 and Op. 39. Here again the 2002 recordings are in many individual songs faster. Besides the 37 songs that constitute the three cycles there are another 75 from various groups that Schreier for some reason preferred not to record in their entirety. These 75 are just as idiomatically performed. I am full of admiration for the consistency of Schreier’s singing – consistency in this case means that he treats each song according to its contents. Just to pick a couple of songs at random: listen to his magical legato in Der Nussbaum (CD 2 tr. 4), inward and warm, and the liveliness of Freisinn that follows. Seasoned collectors and lovers of Schumann’s art will find most of their favourites in readings that probably challenge anything that they already have. For those who are only familiar with the most well-known of his songs there will be revelations aplenty. Some of the “new” songs may need a couple of hearings to reveal their greatness, for instance the four Lieder aus dem Schenkenbuch im Divan (CD 3 tr. 6 – 9). More immediate are perhaps the Fünf Lieder Op. 40 (CD 3 tr. 10 – 14), even though the second of them, Muttertraum, is uncommonly chromatic for Schumann. Der Soldat and Der Spielmann are charming and Verratene Liebe is quite irresistible. Here also is one of Schumann’s most touching songs, the Rückert setting Der Himmel hat eine Träne geweint (CD 3 tr. 24), followed by Ich hab’ in mich gezogen and don’t miss Zum Schluss (CD 3 tr. 29).

On CD 4 there are more gems. Zwölf Gedichte von Justinus Kerner Op. 35 is a longstanding favourite. I thought nobody would ever outdo Thomas Hampson, but Schreier is possibly even more involved. No. 2, Stirb, Lied’ und Freund’! is heart-rending in Schreier’s hands, Auf das Trinkglas eines verstorbenen Freundes (No. 6) is magical and Stille Tränen is so exquisitely interpreted. At first hearing this group of songs — it isn’t really a song-cycle — may seem rather alien to those who only know the “usual” Schumann. They are more akin to Brahms’ late songs. Give them a chance and they will open up and Schreier is the best possible guide into this new world.

Also lend an ear to the inwardly sung Schneeglöcken (CD 4 tr. 14). Finally Schreier takes us to the realm of darkness in Sechs Gedichte von Nikolaus Lenau und Requiem (CD 4 tr. 16 – 22). These were among the earliest Schumann songs I got to know, back in the 1960s, through a Philips LP with Gérard Souzay. I played Dichterliebe on side one over and over again, tears running every time I got to Wenn ich in deine Augen seh’ and it took me some time to turn the disc over to the Lenau side. Perplexed at first – is this the same composer? – but repeated listening won me over and today this group belongs among my desert island songs ... and Schreier is great here.

These recordings were originally produced by VEB Deutsche Schallplatten, which was the only record company in the German Democratic Republic. In the West they were also available on Deutsche Grammophon through a licence agreement. That they now are available at budget price is a cultural achievement by Brilliant. Seize the opportunity.

Göran Forsling


CD 1 [69:22]
Dichterliebe Op. 48
1. Im wunderschönen Monat Mai [1:43]
2. Aus meinen Tränen sprieβen [1:02]
3. Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube [0:32]
4. Wenn ich in deine Augen seh‘ [1:39]
5. Ich will meine Seele tauchen [0:52]
6. Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome [2:23]
7. Ich grolle nicht [1:48]
8. Und wüβten’s die Blumen, die kleinen [1:11]
9. Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen [1:30]
10. Hör‘ ich das Liedchen klingen [2:09]
11. Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen [0:59]
12. Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen [2:43]
13. Ich hab‘ im Traum geweinet [2:47]
14. Allnächtlich im Träume [1:46]
15. Aus alten Märschen [2:55]
16. Die alten, bösen Lieder [5:20]

Liederkreis Op. 24
17. Morgens steh‘ ich auf und frage [1:04]
18. Es treibt mich hin [1:14]
19. Ich wandelte unter den Bäumen [3:35]
20. Lieb‘ Lienchen, leg’s Händchen [0:49]
21. Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden [3:55]
22. Warte, warte, wilder Schiffmann [1:59]
23. Berg‘ und Burgen schaun herunter [3:37]
24. Anfangs wollt‘ ich fast verzagen [1:12]
25. Mit Myrten und Rosen [4:26]

26. Die Lotusblume [1:41]
27. Was will die einsame Träne [1:52]
28. Du bist wie eine Blume [1:43]
29. Dein Angesicht, so lieb und schöne [2:16]
30. Lehn deine Wang‘ an meine Wang‘ [0:47]
31. mein Wagen rollet langsam [2:46]

32. Der arme Peter, Op. 53 No. 3 [4:18]
1. Der Hans und die Grete
2. In meiner Brust, da sitzt ein Weh
3. Der arme Peter wankt vorbei
CD 2 [65:54]
Liederkreis Op. 39
1. In der Fremde [2:08]
2. Intermezzo [2:01]
3. Waldesgespräch [2:14]
4. Die Stille [1:32]
5. Mondnacht [4:26]
6. Schöne Fremde [1:20]
7. Auf einer Burg [2:45]
8. In der Fremde [1:30]
9. Wehmut [2:20]
10. Zwielicht [3:02]
11. Im Walde [1:30]
12. Frühlingsnacht [1:12]

13. Frühlingsfahrt, Op. 45 No. 2 [3:07]
14. Ständchen, Op. 36 No. 2 [1:28]
15. Nur ein ländelner Blick Op. 27 No. 5 [2:30]
16. An den Sonnenschein Op. 36 No. 4 [1:30]
17. Ich wand’re nicht Op. 51 No. 3 [2:02]
18. Der frohe Wandersmann Op. 77 No. 1 [2:02]
19. Der Einsiedler Op. 83 No. 3 [3:04]

Drei Gedichte von Emanuel Geibel Op. 30
20. Der Knabe mit dem Wunderhorn [2:12]
21. Der Page [3:07]
22. Der Hidalgo [2:54]

23. Sehnsucht Op. 51 No. 1 [2:43]
24. Geständnis Op. 74 No. 7 [1:32]
25. O wie lieblich ist das Mädchen Op. 138 No. 3 [2:12]
26. Weh, wie zornig ist das Mädchen Op. 138 No. 7 [1:27]
27. Romanze Op. 138 No. 5 – Ebro caudolose [3:20]

Zwei Zigeunerliedchen
28. Unter die Soldaten ist ein Zigeunerbub’ gegangen, Op. 79 No. 7 [0:56]
29. Jeden Morgen in der Frühe, Op. 79 No. 8 [1:33]

CD 3 [60:46]
1. Widmung Op. 25 No. 1 [2:17]
2. Aus den östlichen Rosen Op. 25 No. 25 [2:03]
3. Jasminenstrauch Op. 27 No. 4 [0:48]
4. Der Nuβbaum Op. 25 No. 3 [2:48]
5. Freisinn Op. 25 No. 2 [1:18]

Lieder aus dem Schenkenbuch im DIVAN
6. No. 1 Sitz‘ ich allein Op. 25 No. 5 [1:10]
7. No. 2 Setze mir nicht, du Grobian Op. 25 No. 6 [0:47]
8. Talismane Op. 25 No. 8 [2:14]
9. Nachtlied Op. 96 No. 1 [2:35]

Fünf Lieder Op. 40
10. Märzveilchen [1:32]
11. Muttertraum [2:51]
12. Der Soldat [2:24]
13. Der Spielmann [2:49]
14. Verratene Liebe [1:02]

15. An den Mond Op. 95 No. 2 [2:13]
16. Geisternähe Op. 77 No. 3 [1:58]
17. Mädchen-Schwermut Op. 142 No. 3 [2:59]
18. Lorelei Op. 53 No. 2 [0:57]
19. Aufträge Op. 77 No. 5 [2:15]

Zwei Venezianische Lieder
20. Leis‘ rudern hier Op. 25 No. 17 [2:03]
21. Wenn durch die Piazetta die Abendluft weht Op. 25 No. 18 [1:05]

22. Frühlingsgruβ Op. 79 No. 4 [1:31]
23. Marienwürmchen Op. 79 No. 14 [1:38]

Gedicht aus Friedrich Rückerts “Liebesfrühling” Op. 37
24. Der Himmel hat eine Träne geweint [2:13]
25. Ich hab‘ in mich gesogen [2:30]
26. Flügel! Flügel! Um zu fliegen [3:37]

27. Meine Töne still und heiter Op. 101 No. 1 [3:01]
28. Mein schöner Stern Op. 101 No. 4 [2:44]
29. Zum Schluβ Op. 25 No. 26 [1:57]

CD 4 [60:22]
Zwölf Gedichte von Justinus Kerner Op. 35
1. Lust der Sturmnacht [1:15]
2. Stirb, Lieb‘ und Freund‘! [6:01]
3. Wanderlied [3:00]
4. Erstes Grün [2:15]
5. Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend [1:37]
6. Auf das Trinkglas eines verstorbenen Freundes [3:35]
7. Wanderung [1:18]
8. Stille Liebe [2:48]
9. Frage [1:19]
10. Stille Tränen [4:07]
11. Wer machte dich so krank [1:51]
12. Alte Laute [1:59]

13. Sängers Trost Op. 127 No. 1 [2:36]
14. Schneeglöcken Op. 96 No. 2 [3:33]
15. Ihre Stimme Op. 96 No. 3 [2:21]

Sechs Gedichte von Nikolaus Lenau und Requiem (Altkatholisches Gedicht) Op. 90
16. Lied eines Schmiedes [1:37]
17. Meine Rose [2:59]
18. Kommen und Scheiden [1:53]
19. Die Sennin [2:21]
20. Einsamkeit [3:14]
21. Der schwere Abend [3:05]
22. Requiem [4:35]