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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Myrten, Opus 25 (1840) [50:59]
Sylwia Burnicka-Kalischewska (soprano), Michał Landowski (piano)
rec. 2019, Szczecin, Poland

Schumann's Myrten (more commonly spelled Myrthen) is a collection of twenty-six songs dating from his celebrated Liederjahr, the year in which he married Clara despite fierce opposition from her father. These songs were Schumann's wedding present to his bride. Acte Préalable, which promotes Polish music and musicians, is a company new to me.

Ms Burnicka-Kalischewska has a big voice which is a little unwieldy at a dynamic above mezzo forte and needs reining in, if possible, for the lieder repertoire. My impression from reading her biographical details is that her experience is predominantly operatic, though we would be wrong to imagine a bias towards Wagner, as she has sung roles in some Mozart operas, Die Fledermaus and Hänsel and Gretel.

Myrten includes several songs which are now among Schumann's most popular. In Widmung, the opening song, Ms Burnicka-Kalischewska has the necessary ardour but tends to sacrifice control. Der Nussbaum is not one of the more successful performances, seeming too effortful and lacking in simplicity. The same must be said for her handling of many of these songs.  In the eighth song, Talismane, initially she is better, more suited to the declamatory style, but even here, when we reach the legato middle section, the shortcomings become more obvious.

Not wishing to labour this review, nor to repeat the same point in different ways, I would say that we are faced with an old problem – how does a big, primarily operatic voice scale down to the requirements of lieder? The answer is that for many singers this is an awkward, not terribly successful transition. So many true lieder singers would give much more pleasure in these songs. One may easily understand why opera-singers are tempted into the field of lieder – there is such a vast and glorious repertoire. Unfortunately, Ms Burnicka-Kalischewska falls into the category of ill-advised. True, the feeling and spirit are there, though sometimes her intensifying of emotion verges on hysteria. Intonation also is neither pure enough or steady enough and in lieder such problems are most cruelly exposed. Along with Talismane, Nos. 18 (the second of a pair of Venetian songs) and 19 (Hauptmanns Weib) are among the more successful performances, notable for a firmer grip on the melodic line. The pianist Michał Landowski is a model of sensitivity, insight and musicianship. I should very much look forward to hearing him in some solo repertoire.

Apart from occasional inelegant English terminology and construction, the booklet notes, written by our singer, are perceptive, raising some interesting points, while the complete texts are included.

Philip Borg-Wheeler

Myrten, 26 Mélodies pour voix et piano, op. 25:
Der Nussbaum
Sitz' ich allein
Setze mir nicht
Die Lotosblume
Lied der Suleika
Die Hochländer-Witwe
Lied der Braut I (Mutter! Mutter!)
Lied der Braut II (Lass mich ihm am Busen hangen)
Hochländers Abschied
Hochländisches Wiegenlied
Aus den hebräischen Gesängen (Mein Herz ist schwer)
Zwei Venetianische Lieder I (Leis' rudern hin)
Zwei Venetianische Lieder II (Wenn durch die Piazza)
Hauptmanns Weib
Weit, weit
Was will die einsame Träne
Im Westen
Du bist wie eine Blume
Aus den östlichen Rosen
Zum Schluss

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