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Robert SCHUMANN (1810 – 1856)
Woman and Man, the Human Soul in Love
Ein Liebesliederstrauss – A bouquet of love songs [18:05]
Frauenliebe und –leben Op. 42 [23:09]
Dichterliebe Op. 48 [30:18]
Nachtlied Op. 96 No. 1 [2:34] (encore)
Alice Coote (mezzo); Christian Blackshaw (piano)
rec. live, Wigmore Hall, London, 22 June 2014
Sung texts with English translations enclosed

During the last few years Alice Coote has made her mark as one of the best song interpreters around. I have already reviewed her Winterreise (review) and a mixed French recital, ‘L’Heure Exquise’ (review). The former was a live recording from Wigmore Hall and in the same venue she now offers a wholly engrossing Schumann programme.

The opening ‘bouquet of love songs’ is a good handful of some of Schumann’s most beautiful and inspired creations. Ms Coote spellbinds the audience from the very beginning: Widmung so warm and inward, Du bist wie eine Blume so full of exquisite nuances. Everything seems to come directly from the heart; there is nothing showy about her singing. Her interpretations have many similarities with those of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, so detailed and considered but without the artifice that could be felt in the older singer’s reading, at least during the later years.

There are many wonderful recordings of Frauenliebe und –leben, from Lotte Lehmann and Elisabeth Schumann up to our own time and it is impossible to pick one as the obvious first choice. Janet Baker and Brigitte Fassbaender and a couple of others are permanently on my shortlist and Alice Coote must now be added to that list. Everything feels so right, so personal. Although this was recorded before an audience in the not too intimate Wigmore Hall it feels more like a private gathering with some close friends in a half-circle around the piano. Especially the last song, Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan, is so deeply moving; the poor woman’s heart is an open wound.

Frauenliebe is a cycle for a female singer, even though the poems were written by a man. Dichterliebe, on the other hand, is written from a male point of view, but several women have through the years given their versions of it. Lotte Lehmann, Brigitte Fassbaender, Nathalie Stutzmann and Barbara Bonney come to mind. A year ago (April 2015) I reviewed a Schumann disc with the Belgian Suzanne Danco, including a 1949 recording of Dichterliebe. I wasn’t wholly happy with her readings, finding that the more dramatic songs eluded her. With Alice Coote I have no such problems - none whatsoever. Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome is, to be sure, sung rather pensively – no histrionics here – and this works well. There is intensity in the reading even so – a whisper can be intense when projected well. What struck me most of all was that I listened with, so to speak, new ears to songs I’ve known for more than fifty years and thought I knew inside out. Now, that is greatness: to perform well-known music naturally and, let’s call it, unpretentiously, without big gestures, just letting the music speak.

Thank you, Alice Coote, for introducing this lovely song-cycle anew to a jaded listener. Thank you also to Christian Blackshaw, for giving Ms Coote such wonderful support.

I can understand that already well-stocked collectors are reluctant to add yet another recording to the bending shelves but you won’t regret the purchase once you’ve started listening. Since this is a live recording before a rather large audience there is applause, and I know that there are people who avoid such recordings. Ideally I would have liked the ovations to have been edited out but this is obviously a policy issue.

Göran Forsling

Track listing
Ein Liebesliederstrauss – A bouquet of love songs
1. Widmung Op. 25 No. 1 [2:07]
2. Du bist wie eine Blume Op. 25 No. 24 [1:45]
3. Dem roten Röslein gleicht mein Lieb Op. 27 No. 2 [0:59]
4. Die Lotusblume Op. 25 No. 7 [1:49]
5. Meine Rose Op. 90 No. 2 [3:52]
6. Mein schöner Stern! Op. 101 No. 4 [3:14]
Frauenliebe und –leben Op. 42 [23:09]
7. Seit ich ihn gesehen [2:21]
8. Er, der Herrlichste von allen [3:15]
9. Ich kann’s nicht fassen [1:52]
10. Du Ring an meinem Finger [2:52]
11. Helft mir, ihr Schwestern [2:00]
12. Süsser Freund, du blickest [4:45]
13. An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust [1:17]
14. Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan [4:19]
Dichterliebe Op. 48 [30:18]
15. Im wunderschönen Monat Mai [1:35]
16. Aus meinen Tränen spriessen [0:55]
17. Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne [0:33]
18. Wenn ich in deine Augen seh‘ [1:43]
19. Ich will meine Seele tauchen [0:48]
20. Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome [2:24]
21. Ich grolle nicht [1:38]
22. Und wüssten’s die Blumen [1:15]
23. Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen [1:28]
24. Hör‘ ich das Liedchen klingen [2:21]
25. Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen [0:59]
26. Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen [2:35]
27. Ich hab‘ im Traum geweinet [2:20]
28. Allnächtlich im Träume [1:22]
29. Aus alten Märchen [2:33]
30. Die alten, bösen Lieder [5:06]
31. Nachtlied Op. 96 No. 1 [2:34]



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