« »

Schumann & Brahms: Various songs, Dichterliebe: Keenlyside and Martineau (CD) SONY 2009

Schumann: Dichterliebe & Brahms: Lieder (CD)

Schumann and Brahms CD

Click below to hear a sample of Brahms’ Verzagen


FIVE STARS – BBC Music magazine
In a hugely competitive field, Keenlyside’s Dichterliebe is an impressive achievement; add it to the fine Brahms, we are left with a very enjoyable disc” Musicalcriticism
No 1 of the best CDs selected by the “crescendo” editional staff: “Eine der besten Lieder-CDs seit langem.” One of the best Lieder CDs for a long time.

Simon Keenlyside
Malcolm Martineau
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Sony Classical 88697566892
Release date: 21 September 2009

Track Listing

Johannes Brahms:
Nachtigallen schwingen
Lerchengesang Op. 70 No. 2
Nicht mehr zu dir zu gehen, Op. 32 No. 2
Über die Heide Op. 86 No. 4
Wie rafft’ ich mich auf Op. 32,1 (v.Platen)
Auf dem Kirchhofe, Op. 105 No. 4
Von ewiger Liebe, Op. 43 No. 1
O kühler Wald, Op. 72 No. 3
Es schauen die Blumen, Op. 96 No. 3
Feldeinsamkeit, Op. 86 No. 2
Nachtwandler, Op. 86 No. 3
Verzagen, Op. 72 No. 4
An eine Äolsharfe, Op. 19 No. 5
Abenddämmerung, Op. 49 No. 5
An die Nachtigall, Op. 46 No. 4 (Text: L.C.H. Hölty)
Robert Schumann: Dichterliebe, Op. 48
Im wunderschönen Monat Mai
Aus meinen Tränen sprießen
Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne
Wenn ich in deine Augen seh’
Ich will meine Seele tauchen
Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome
Ich grolle nicht
Und wüßten’s die Blumen
Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen
Hör ich das Liedchen klingen
Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen
Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen
Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet
Allnächtlich im Traume seh’ ich dich
Aus alten Märchen winkt es
Die alten, bösen Lieder

What the critics say

Hugo Shirley, musicalcriticism.com, 17 September 2009

Rating: Four out of five stars

As Simon Keenlyside flexes his vocal muscles reprising the role of Posa in the Royal Opera’s Don Carlo, this disc serves as a timely reminder of his skills as an interpreter of lieder. Reunited with pianist Malcolm Martineau, with whom he recorded a pair of wonderful song discs for EMI Eminence – Schubert and Strauss – at the start of his career, he recaptures much of the ardour and youthful passion that made those early discs so enjoyable, not to mention his contribution to Graham Johnson’s Schumann edition on Hyperion, including a rousing performance of the Kerner-Lieder Op.35.

Here we have a generously filled disc, with three quarters of an hour of Brahms, followed by an admirably passionate and individual Dichterliebe. It must be said, however, first impressions are not good, with Keenlyside sounding rather uncomfortable with the high tessitura of ‘Nachtigallen Schwingen’. The recorded sound, too, is not ideal: the piano lacks focus, sounding muddy, while Keenlyside’s voice comes across as rather fuzzy and veiled. As the programme gets underway, though, the ear adjusts and we can settle down to enjoy the artistry of this instinctive lieder singer.

Although Keenlyside’s forays into the great baritone roles of the Italian repertoire have given the voice a bit more heft, it’s still an instrument that is arguably better suited to this repertoire. His keen musical intelligence and flawless German are allied to a refreshing willingness to wear the heart on the sleeve, a welcome change from much of the understated performances of lieder that we hear more and more these days. We have a barnstorming ‘Von ewiger Liebe’, then, and there are other moments where the voice opens up thrillingly, such as in ‘Wie rafft’ ich mich auf in der Nacht.’ He captures the quiet passion of ‘Nicht mehr zu dir zu gehen’ beautifully and if I was not entirely convinced by the switches between head voice and full voice in ‘An eine Äolsharfe’, Keenlyside largely turns in moving accounts of the more pensive songs, including a deeply touching ‘Feldeinsamkeit’.

When we get on to Dichterliebe, there’s a refreshing directness to Keenlyside’s performance. Some surprising choices of tempo raise doubts which – and this says something for the quality of both singer and pianist – are soon allayed. So a swift ‘Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen’ still manages to capture the song’s dreamy intimacy, while an ‘Ein jüngling liebt ein Mädchen’ which seems initially rather flat succeeds through delight in story-telling.

Comparisons between the enormously refined performance of this cycle by Gerald Finley are telling, Although Keenlyside’s is a little more generalised, the emotion that sometimes seemed missing with Finley is here in spades. Keenlyside is possibly at an advantage being a higher voice – and can manage a thrilling if inauthentic top A in ‘Ich grolle nicht’ – but the way he throws himself into the character and the songs is highly persuasive, too. And that’s not to say there’s a lack of subtlety in his approach, the variety of expression he achieves in ‘Wenn ich in deine Augen seh’ ‘ is hugely impressive, as is ‘Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet’, while he manages the numbness of ‘Hör’ ich das Liedchen klingen’ extremely well, rising to unexpected passion at the final line.

Throughout, Martineau is a worthy accomplice, and even if I found him strangely reticent in the bigger moments of ‘Die alten, bösen Lieder’, his scene-setting in the intros and postludes is expert, as one would expect.

In a hugely competitive field, Keenlyside’s Dichterliebe is an impressive achievement; add it to the fine Brahms, we are left with a very enjoyable disc. He says little that’s new about the cycle but presents an impassioned, traditional recording backed up by his trademark, burnished tone.

Choral & Song Music Choice

George Hall, BBC Music magazine, November 2009

Performance rating: Five stars

Sound rating: Four stars

Decisive Lieder: George Hall finds Simon Keenlyside on flawless form

Simon Keenlyside’s recital blends some of Brahms’s best-known songs, such as Von ewiger Liebe and Feldeinsamkeit, with several that are far less familiar. They are well ordered on the disc and make a cohesive selection. Highlights include his refined tone in Lerchengesang and ‘Wie rafft’ ich mich’, a marvellous study of nocturnal restlessness and remorse; but there is a general impression not just of him singing individual phrases with skill and insight, but also of contemplating each song as a whole. Throughout, the baritone combines a detailed approach with an overview, demonstrating an exceptional ability to seek out the meaning of both text and music, holding them together in one single image. His command of German is comprehensive, showing an ability to capitalise on its sonic character as well as to articulate it flawlessly. This is surely a great Lieder singer at the peak of his powers. He is well served by his accompanist who deploys a huge range of tone and colour with an equally firm artistic intent.

In Schumann’s Dichterliebe, Malcolm Martineau reveals all the complex richness of Schumann’s piano writing, and the duo maintains a feeling of spontaneity, observing the cycle’s open-endedness – it is viewed here as one piece in 16 sections, rather than as a collection of 16 individual items – bringing it together in one extended expression. The recorded sound is not entirely satisfactory. The piano comes over well, but one can’t help feeling that the voice is placed within a little too much acoustic resonance.

Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 CD Review (transcription), 3 October 2009

“Baritone Gerald Finley seems to be becoming something of a Gramophone fixture this year, winning the solo vocal award with pianist Julius Drake for their Hyperion disc of Schumann’s Dichterliebe and other Heine settings. You heard it here on CD Review when it was first released. It’s been a rich year for new song recordings and as of this week Finley’s Dichterliebe has competition from Simon Keenlyside with Malcolm Martineau.

But I want to play you two of the 16 Brahms songs that precede the Schumann cycle, because you’ll hear straight away the extent to which Keenlyside seems able to change his persona, finding completely different characters and vocal colours. The second song is Lerchengesang (Lark’s Song) in which their ethereal distant voices awake memories of twilight and springtime sighs. And before it, here’s Verzagen (Despair) – the poet seeking comfort in crashing waves as he sits in numb resignation beside the sea.

Plays: Verzagen


Lerchengesang (Lark’s Song), Brahms’s Opus 70 No 2, and before it you heard Simon Keenlyside and Malcolm Martineau in “Despair”. Such total contrast and alongside Keenlyside’s shape-shifting, Martineau’s strength and interpretative intelligence is vital. I didn’t really like the piano sound all that much, but at the end of the day it doesn’t detract from such characterful performances of the 16 Brahms songs and Schumann’s Opus 48 Dichterliebe, which really does feel like a cycle here and not just a sequence of separate songs. It’s new from Sony Classical and Simon Keenlyside is Sean Rafferty’s guest on In Tune on Monday here on BBC Radio 3.”

Classic FM Magazine, November 2009

Brahms is loved mainly for his orchestral and instrumental music, but he also wrote some 200 songs, many of which deserve to be better known. Keenlyside begins this recital with 16 of them: most are melancholy or wistful. He captures the various moods beautifully, lightening or darkening his baritone as appropriate. In Feldeinsamkeit, his phrasing wonderfully suggests the siill heat of a summer’s day. In Oichteriiebe, he finds due weight for ‘Im Rhein’, and works up to a splendid climax in ‘Ich grolle nicht’. A pity he doesn’t respect the cycle’s tonal integrity: some songs are transposed down, others are sung at pitch. RL

Nicholas Kenyon, The Guardian, 11 October 2009

Keenlyside is one of the peerless singer-actors of our generation and here brings a full-blown operatic sensibility to lieder by Brahms, and Schumann’s great song-cycle Dichterliebe. The sound is so intense, the emotion so palpable that there is a danger of overkill. But as he weaves his way through these carefully chosen pathways of Brahms, he shows he can be both ethereal and powerful. The Schumann cycle is admirably flexible and manages to be heart-stoppingly lyrical as well as forceful, culminating in an overwhelming “Ich grolle nicht”. Fine piano playing, but the sound is recessive and unbalanced.

Gilles Macassar, Le Monde, 7 November 2009

Translation by Jane Garratt

Composed in only one week (the last week of May 1840), the twenty Lieder of Dichterliebe, reduced to sixteen by Schumann at the time of the publication, celebrate the false flowering of a spring love. Following Schubert’s original inspiration in Die schöne Müllerin, then in Winterreise, Schumann embroiders on the eternal lament of the unpopular young lover, betrayed and given up for another by a fickle mistress, by laconic variations in two equal voices – that of the singer and that, no less melodic or less eloquent, of the piano.

With a cruelty all the more pitiless because of their lightness, the ironically painful verses of Henri [sic] Heine find their ideal descant in these arabesques by Schumann, sometimes vanishing and allusive, sometimes accusatory and heavy with a devastating grief.

The harmonic shades override the light and blur it. The unvoiced comments of choked suffering, the stifled sobs, the suppressed anger breaks the lyric flights, undermining the comfort of feeling sorry for oneself.

This slow shipwreck of hoped for happiness, this disoriented trip on the edge of despair and of madness finds a formidably invested and inspired interpreter in Simon Keenlyside. The man who undoubtedly at present incarnates the role of Wozzeck, in Alban Berg’s opera, with the most intriguing intentional abandonment, brings to the music of Schumann the loving accents of so private, so internalised a misery, which is so walled in that no external help can comfort it.

Celebrated in the sixth Lied, the Rhine, in which the cathedral of Cologne reflects its dome, is definitely the river tempter whose floods attract towards the chasm and death – as, on one morning in1854, Schumann himself will plunge there. The warm-hearted piano of Malcolm Martineau prolongs the mute daydreams, the melancholic restless wanderings of the poet with fraternal foresight.

Roger Pines, International Record Review November 2009


Within living memory has there been a period of Lieder singing boasting such depth in any vocal category as we have with baritones today? How extraordinary that their numbers at the highest level have so greatly increased, whether British (Keenlyside. Mailman), North American (Hampson, Finley), Danish (Skovhus), German (Gerhaher, Henschel, Quasthoff, Trekel), or Austrian (Holzmair), to cite only the first names to come to mind. Each boasts a distinctive quality of voice, profound musicality, notable interpretative intelligence and a laudable musical curiosity that has taken us well beyond the beaten track in appreciating the breadth of the greatest Lieder composers’ output.

With such artists it is obviously impossible to declare one of them prima inter pares, but I confess that it is Simon Keenlyside to whom I most often return when seeking a baritone in Lieder. Back in 1997, when he recorded his all-Schumann disc with Graham Johnson (Hyperion COJ33I02), Keenlyside was already the complete Lieder singer, with a marked boldness in his interpretative choices. His authenticity in German texts remains remarkable by any standards but especially so in one not born to the language. He puts the words across with a crispness and an immediacy that reward the listener continually. He also covers a wide range in unfailingly clear and forward tone, to which he can bring every gradation of light and shade. Beyond all this, Keenlyside possesses that special gift of the outstanding recitalist -he creates a particular sound, a particular world, for each song.

The singer’s legato control and intimacy of utterance are essential in his 16 carefully chosen Brahms selections, of which perhaps only four or five figure among the composer’s most familiar Lieder. They are approached with complete emotional involvement and much attention to tonal colour. The mezzo voce applied to the end of ‘Verzagen’, also to the first verse of ‘An eine Äolsharfe’, is especially telling; few baritones relish such effects as Keenlyside does, yet he never overdoes them (his tone remains as thrillingly invigorating as ever at full voice). ‘Lerchengesang’ stays marvellously airborne, and Keenlyside brings a suitably operatic intensity to the finale of ‘Von ewiger Liebe’. He follows that with arguably the loveliest singing on this disc in ‘An die Nachtigall’. His presentation of ‘Oh Kühler Wald’ equals Roman Trekel’s memorable performance on his all-Brahms disc for Arte Nova (a 2006 release), while ‘Feldeinsamkeit’ and ‘Nachtwandler’ are other complete successes in their exquisitely contained expressive character.

Keenlyside just turned 50 in August, but his Dichterliebe is a gloriously youthful reading, deeply heartfelt yet never exaggerated. The poet is truly love-struck from the start (listen to the shine in the voice at ‘die Liebe aufgegangen’ in the first song). To Keenlyside’s great credit and that of accompanist Malcolm Martineau, they take their time over ‘Die Rose, die Lilie’ rather than frantically charging through it as is so often heard. In the fifth song a feather-light colouring is again magically applied, bringing an unforgettably affecting colour to the word ‘hauchen’ (‘to breathe’). The pain imbuing the phrase ‘Das weiss ich längst’ in ‘Ich grolle nicht’ is another tiny detail that makes all the difference. One’s heart goes out to Schumann’s unhappy narrator as he awakens weeping from his dreams (‘Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet’), the longing for a land of fairy-tales in the penultimate song is given with ideal fervency, and certainly this poet bears perceptible emotional scars as he ends the cycle with ‘Die alten bösen Lieder”.

Reviewing baritone Dichterliebe performances of recent years makes for a fascinating comparison. There is, for example, a somewhat broader, darker timbre from the splendid Christian Gerhaher, whose style – unlike Keenlyside’s – stands very much in the tradition of Fischer-Dieskau, sometimes almost disconcertingly so. Thomas Quasthoff, officially a bass-baritone, takes lower keys than Keenlyside; he is in wonderful voice but somewhat less specific interpretatively, to my surprise. Although Gerald Finley also sings the cycle in lower keys, his achingly sincere performance, gloriously sung, is perhaps closest in letter and spirit to Keenlyside. I find it impossible to choose between them: Lieder enthusiasts really should own both.

Like his partner, Martineau finds the specific tone of every song with unerring skill, placing technical brilliance entirely at the service of the expressive moment. He ripples through Brahms’s ‘Verzagen’ and Schumann’s ‘Ich will meine Seele tauchen’ with exhilarating case, he underscores the dance rhythm of  ‘Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen’ without overemphasis, and in all the quieter songs adds immeasurable sensitivity to the mood so beautifully sustained by Keenlyside.

Sony’s sound is worthy of the occasion.

Warmly recommended.

Prolog 1/2010 -a magazine of the Vienna Staatsoper

will be translated as soon as possible

Hohe Gestaltungskraft

Als Opernsänger ist Simon Keenlyside eine umjubelte Größe: schon allein seiner szenischen Gestaltungskraft wegen, vor allem aber natürlich aufgrund seiner musikalischen Ausdrucksmittel.
Das erlebt das Publikum der Wiener Staatsoper immer wieder. Wer auch die großen Wiener Konzerthäuser besucht, der weiß natürlich ebenso gut, welch faszinierender Liedsänger der britische Bariton ist. Die bestechend genaue Ausdeutung des musikalischen Textes, die Sprachverständlichkeit, die präzise Arbeit an der Komposition, nicht zuletzt das Timbre und die Stimme als solche: all das zieht stets in den Bann und kann faszinieren. Auf Simon Keenlysides neuer CD mit Liedern von Johannes Brahms und Robert Schumanns Dichterliebe-Zyklus erlebt man den Bariton in einer
interpretatorischen Bestform. Wie er mit dramatischer Verdunkelung einzelne Lieder zu kleinen Szenen wandelt, wie er allen Nummern Tiefe verleiht, ist einfach überzeugend! Dazu der großartige Pianist Malcolm Martineau, der die Aufnahme alleine schon hörenswert macht.

Uwe Schneider, Crescendo, 2010-01 (German classical music magazine)

will be translated as soon as possible

Keenlyside: Liedgesang vom Feinsten
Der britische Bariton Simon Keenlyside hat sich kontinuierlich an die Weltspitze gesungen, ohne Hochglanz-PR und Eventglamour. Sein Trumpf ist ein Bariton von bemerkenswerter Musikalität, überaus flexibel gestaltend, farbenreich und zu zartesten Nuancen fähig. Dieses Liedrecital unterstreicht das ohrenfällig. Sein samtiges Timbre und expressive Phrasierung, seine in allen Registern ausgeglichene Stimmführung, erschließen die Liedminiaturen Schuberts, Wolfs, Faurés und Ravels in solcher Plastizität, dass man den ebenso schlichten wie theatralischen Gestus der Stimme nur bewundern kann. Wie er mit vorbildlicher Artikulation aus Text und Harmonik Klangfarben zaubert, sensibel die  Phrasen aufblühen und ersterben lässt, kann man sich überzeugender kaum denken. Malcolm Martineau ist ihm ein ebenbürtiger Begleiter, gemeinsam gestalten sie hier eine der besten Lieder-CDs seit langem.

Fred Cohn, operanews.com, May 2010

Editor’s choice

Complete Investment

Simon Keenlyside offers handsome sound and emotional nuance in two contrasting recital programs.Simon Keenlyside and Malcolm Martineau SCHUMANN: Dichterliebe; BRAHMS: Lieder Texts and translations. Sony 75668 and Songs by Schubert, Wolf, Fauré and Ravel  Texts and translations. Wigmore Hall Live 0031

A successful recitalist needs a “face” — the ability to convey not just what is being sung but who is singing it. In these two discs, Simon Keenlyside delivers “face,” and plenty of it. He transmits the sense that he sings not just because he likes the music, or because it suits his vocal gifts and training, but because he is invested in its meaning. Human communication impels the performing impulse: he wants to tell us something, person to person.

If anything, the program on the Sony recital, a studio effort, seems consciously chosen not just to suit Keenlyside’s interpretive identity but to shape it. The sixteen Brahms lieder that form its first half establish a sorrowful tone continued by the Dichterliebe that follows. The recital occupies a realm of disappointment and aching nostalgia, of the contemplation of loves known and lost. The close-in recording reveals the flecks of grit that have crept into Keenlyside’s voice — a moment of hoarseness here, a bit of strain there. In context, these are hardly defects but signs of maturity, helping the baritone project a stance that is romantic but worldly-wise: this is a man who knows all too well the trouble and sadness that life can bring.

Keenlyside shows a mercurial ability to play with emotional nuance: he is able to embody many different kinds of sadness. Take Brahms’s “An eine Äolsharfe,” setting a poem in which Mörike mourns his younger bother, dead at age seventeen. Here Keenlyside’s singing takes on an aching tenderness heard nowhere else in the recital. The climactic melodic strain of the same composer’s “Feldeinsamkeit” anticipates both the finale of Mahler’s Third Symphony and the wistful pop song “I’ll Be Seeing You”; Keenlyside’s urgent legato and the note of yearning in his voice turn the melody into an entreaty for transcendent peace.

Despite the fleeting impurities, Keenlyside still produces, by any reasonable standard, an extraordinarily handsome sound — even more so in the live Wigmore Hall recital. The warm concert-hall acoustic may mask the momentary imperfections exposed by the more clinical studio environment, or perhaps Keenlyside was in marginally better voice for the recital than he was for the recording session. (Floated top notes have more presence, less trace of falsetto in Wigmore Hall than in the studio.)

Whatever the reason, the dulcet vocalism befits the recital’s program, occupying sunnier territory than that of the Brahms– Schumann disc. The opening Schubert set states the program’s comparatively blithe outlook explicitly: “Die Einsiedelei” celebrates the banishment of melancholy in a hermitage’s comforting shade; in “Die Sterne,” the stars become a balm for humanity’s woes. Here Keenlyside’s tone has an almost adolescent ingenuousness, and his phrasing is so natural that the melodies emerge as if unmediated.

But if anything, the Wigmore disc’s Fauré set is its crowning glory. Classical-music singers are not often adept at projecting sexuality; in songs and opera, the sex often seems to emerge in quotes — indicated rather than incarnated. But Keenlyside, in the song “Green,” plausibly embodies a man who wants to rest his head on his lover’s breast after the “bonne tempête” of lovemaking. And even if the waltz “Le papillon et la fleur” is addressed to a butterfly, Keenlyside’s nimble reading carries a hint of seduction — surely the effect Fauré intended.

On both discs, Malcolm Martineau shows himself a keenly sensitive collaborator. He is a master of pianistic color: just listen to the undulating chords that open Brahms’s “Abenddämmerung” or to the evanescent sonorities he creates in Ravel’s Histoires Naturelles. But his real achievement here, akin to Keenlyside’s, is in revealing the emotional core of each song. These guys are the real deal.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

diana jones November 5, 2013 at 9:47 am

Hello Gloria,

In case you haven’t seen them, there are half a dozen clips of Simon singing Lieder at Wigmore Hall on this website, but as Petra said, no official dvd of Simon singing Lieder. Such a pity!


Petra November 5, 2013 at 6:38 am

I think you saw on Youtube an inhouse recording of someone – there does not exist an official Lieder DVD. On the “Twin Spirits” DVD he sings some Lieder but I would not call it a Lieder DVD.

Gloria Smolenyak November 4, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Looking for DVD or BluRay of Simon Keenlyside singing lieder, saw it on Utube. Is it not to be had in the States? Really would enjoy this so much. Thank you !!!

asperia July 15, 2010 at 7:24 pm

i love the most the other cd with schumann lieder he recorded:-))) but this one is great too:-))
he is a schumann man.

Chrys Atwood January 17, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Such a lovely phrase to describe the artistry of Simon Keenlyside: “Warmly recommended.”

Leave a Comment