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Robert SCHUMANN (1810 – 1856)
Lieder Vol. 2

Songs from Twelve Poems from Rückert’s "Liebesfrühling", Op. 37 [21:18]: Der Himmel hat eine Träne Geweint♂ - O ihr Herren♀ - Ich hab’ in mich gesogen♂ - Liebste, was kann denn uns scheiden?♂♀ - Schön ist das Fest des Lenzes♂♀ - Flügel! Flügel! um zu fliegen♂ - Rose, Meer und Sonne♂ - O Sonn’, o Meer, o Rose♂ - So wahr die Sonne scheinet♂♀
Songs from Goethe’s "Wilhelm Meister", Op. 98a [25:33]: Ballade des Harfners♂ - Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt♀ - Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen ass♂ - Heiss’ mich nicht reden♀ - Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt♂ - Singet nicht in Trauertönen♀ - An die Türen will ich schleichen♂ - So lasst mich scheinen, bis ich werde♀
Solo Songs from Rückert’s "Minnespiel", Op. 101 [17:07]: Meine Töne still und heiter♂ - Liebster, deine Worte stehlen♀ - Ich bin dein Baum, o Gärtner♂♀ - Mein schöner Stern!♀ - O Freund, mein Schirm, mein Schutz♀
Thomas E. Bauer (baritone)♂, Susanne Bernhard (soprano)♀, Uta Hielscher (piano)
rec. 10-12 Sept 2003, Kammermusikstudio, SWR-Stuttgart, Germany
NAXOS 8.557074 [63:58]

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Hard on the heels of – or rather over-lapping – their ongoing Schubert song series, Naxos have launched what is intended to be a complete Schumann cycle. This is already volume 2, the first, with Liederkreis Op. 24 and Dichterliebe (Naxos 8.557075) [to be reviewed], released a few months ago. The singer on that volume was the young German baritone Thomas E. Bauer, who appears again on this disc, partnered by the likewise young soprano Susanne Bernhard. I haven’t heard the first volume, but judging from what I hear here, Bauer has all the requirements to sing a splendid Dichterliebe. And he is only one of several young Lieder-singing baritones with the same basic qualities: a lightish, well-schooled, quite tenoral and very beautiful voice, phrasing sensitively, capable of exquisite pianissimo singing, expressive and with unforced high notes. Stephan Genz is probably the most well-known among this new school. We can’t expect them to impress through volume and thundering fortes, but this doesn’t exclude high-strung drama with smaller means (intensity is seldom synonymous with volume) and the question is if a more intimate approach isn’t what the composers had in mind when writing their Lieder in the 19th century. Bauer shows his dramatic talent in the dark Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen ass (track 12) and also Ballade des Harfners (track 10) has a more "meaty" sound. But what impresses most is, as I have already implied, his lyrical singing with a myriad of nuances. Just listen to tracks 1, 3 and 6 to see what I mean. I am sure we are going to hear much more of him in the future and he has already a quite extensive discography.

Susanne Bernhard’s voice is quite different from Bauer’s, where Bauer’s is rounded, almost honeyed, Bernhard’s is bright and penetrating. In their duets I get a feeling that Bauer’s more intimate voice is closer to the microphones. But Bernhard is also a sensitive singer, she phrases musically and the timbre of her voice is very beautiful, but she has a narrower palette of colours than Bauer, who seems to be a more natural Lieder singer. We find her at her most expressive in Heiss’ mich nicht reden (track 13) and she can be light and lively as in track 15 and in the two last songs she sings long phrases with a fine legato. The duet Ich bin dein Baum, o Gärtner (track 20) finds both singers on top form and the song is a gem.

The pianist, Uta Hielscher, works regularly with Thomas Bauer and her playing is everything one could ask for. Schumann songs are always grateful for the pianist, especially the postludes, when the piano is in the limelight. Hielscher is very good in track 12, to mention just one instance.

The songs, from two groups of poems by Rückert and poems from Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meister, do not belong to the more well-known from Schumann’s large oeuvre of Lieder, but this doesn’t mean that they are of inferior quality. I have already mentioned one gem and there are several others, e.g. track 1, Der Himmel hat eine Träne geweint and the often set Goethe poem Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt (track 11). The twelve poems from Rückert’s "Liebesfrühling" were composed in 1841, i.e. while he was still in his early Lieder period. Three of the poems were actually set by his wife Clara, but only Robert’s own settings are included here. He returned to Rückert almost a decade later with "Minnespiel", a composition for several voices, from which the songs intended for solo voice are sung on the present disc. The contemporaneous songs from "Wilhelm Meister" show Schumann as a more dramatic composer and he had actually planned to make an opera libretto from Goethe’s novel. These songs are more recitativic and declamatory; the earlier mentioned Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen ass (track 12) is a splendid example of this "new" Schumann.

To sum up, these are excellent readings of some lesser known songs by one of the greatest German Lieder composers. Both singers are young and fresh and may in the future deepen their interpretations even further, but especially Thomas Bauer is already in the forefront among present-day Lieder singers.

Göran Forsling

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