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Album Für Die Frau
Scenes from the Schumanns' Lieder

Carolyn Sampson (soprano)
Joseph Middleton (piano)
rec. St Georges, Bristol, August 2018
BIS BIS-2473 SACD [71.46]

 If, as the lamented Christa Ludwig argued, each art-song is a mini-opera, then each song has a significant completeness in itself. Certainly, a group of songs, conceived as a cycle by a master, has a complete arch, not simply in terms of musical progression but in literary themes. The issue for the recitalist would be if the themes of the lyrics add up to less than the mastery of the music.

That is the issue here. Frauenliebe und -lieben, setting lyrics by Adelbert von Chamisso, from his Frauenliebe (1830) presents verses of no great distinction, about love, leading to the final betrayal of death. Woman throughout is presented as passive, subservient, losing herself entirely in the adoration and love of the man. It would be kind to describe the verses as sentimental – even the most robust anti-feminist might hesitate to hear:

I shall serve him, live for him,
Belong to him wholly,
Yield to him and find
Myself transfigured in his light.

The cycle of 8 songs was written in 1840, for Clara von Weick, when Robert was obsessed by his love and passion. One wonders how impressed this remarkable woman might have been – certainly she rarely performed the complete cycle.

The solution adopted here has been felicitous – to draw on the works of both Robert and Clara, and to create 8 sections, and prologue and postlude, each section of three or four pieces on connected themes and headed by the next in the Frauenliebe und -lieben sequence. This opens the way to lyrics of much greater poetic and emotional quality and depth (from Rückert and Heine among others). The result is a wholly satisfactory recital.

Performances are as accomplished as we might expect from Sampson and Middleton. The insight of one is matched instinctively by the response of the other. It is good that Joseph Middleton has the opportunity to play some brief but telling solos.

Carolyn Sampson is an amazing artist in full bloom, with the confidence not to over-interpret and to let simpler elements speak for themselves. There is ardour when necessary, but also the freshness of youth as appropriate. She has the wonderful gift or making nothing routine, while not imposing on the music but showing forth its own merits. These gifts are on full display in the lovely Requiem (No 7, Sechs Gedichte und Requiem, Op 90) a setting of verses by an anonymous author, the final song – as fine a performance of this lovely piece as I have ever heard.

Production standards are superb, and St Georges in Bristol provides an ideal acoustic.

Gratitude all round is due here. This is a must for any lovers of the musical world of the Schumanns.

Michael Wilkinson
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-56)
Langsam und mit Ausdruck zu spielen (piano solo) (No 21, Album für die Jugend, Op 68) [1.47]
Clara SCHUMANN (1819-96)
Liebst du um Schönheit (No 2, Rückerts Liebesfrühling, Op 12) [2.06]
Seit ich in gesehen (No 1, Frauenliebe und -lieben, Op 42) [2.28]
O Lust, o Lust (No 6, 6 Lieder aus “Jucunde”, Op 23) [1.37]
Volksliedchen (No 2, Lieder und Gesänge, Vol. II, Op 51) [0.55]
Liebeszauber (No 3, 6 Lieder, Op 13) [2.02]
Er, der Herrlichste von allen (No 2, Frauenliebe und -lieben) [3.12]
An einem lichten Morgen (No 2, 6 Lieder aus “Jucunde”) [2.26]
Warum willst du and’re fragen (No 2, Rückerts Liebesfrühling) [2.12]
Liebeslied (No 3, Lieder und Gesänge, Vol. II) [2.13]
Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben (No 3, Frauenliebe und -lieben) [3.12]
Verratene Liebe (No 5 of 5 Lieder, Op 40) [0.46]
Die stille Lotusblume (No 3, 6 Lieder) [2.36]
Du Ring am meinem Finger (No 4, Frauenliebe und -lieben) [2.29]
Der Mond kommt still gegangen (No 4, 6 Lieder) [1.55]
Lied der Braut I (No 11, Myrthen, Op 25) [2.15]
Lied der Braut II (No 12, Myrthen) [1.31]
Glückes genug (piano solo) (No 5, Kinderszenen, Op 15) [1.01]
Helft mir, ihr Schwestern (No 5, Frauenliebe und -lieben) [1.55]
Die Lotosblume (No 7, Myrthen) [1.43]
Lust der Sturmnacht (No 1, 12 Gedichte,Op 35) [1.27]
Süßer Freund, du blickest mich verwundert an (No 6, Frauenliebe und -lieben) [4.22]
Hochländisches Wiegenlied (No 14, Myrthen) [2.52]
Der Sandmann (No 13, Liederalbum für die Jugend, Op 79) [2.07]
Kind im Einschlummern (piano solo) (No 12, Kinderszenen) [1.46]
An meinem Herzen, am meiner Brust (No 7, Frauenliebe und -lieben) [1.16]
Ritter vom Steckenpferd (piano solo) (No 9, Kinderszenen) [0.43]
Dein Angeschicht so lieb und schön (No 2, 5 Lieder und Gesänge, Op 127 [2.32]
Mädchen-Schwermut (No 3, 4 Gesänge, Op 142) [2.57]
Nun has du mir den ersten Schmerz getan (No 8, Frauenliebe und -lieben) [3.57]
Requiem (No 7, Sechs Gedichte und Requiem, Op 90) [3.45]
Winterzeit I (piano solo) (No 38, Album für die Jugend) [2.14]

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