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Schumann, Robert: Songs of Robert Schumann CD Hyperion 1999

Schumann: Songs of Robert Schumann

Schumann Songs CD

Number 1 choice in BBC Radio 3 “Building a Library”, 17 October 2009

Gramophone Critics’ Choice

BBC Music Magazine Record of the Year

Composer Robert Schumann
Simon Keenlyside
Graham Johnson
Label Hyperion
Code CDJ33102
Recorded on 27 February – 1st March 1997
Released July 26, 1999
Number of discs 1

Track Listing

Ballade des Harfners Op 98a No 2
Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen aß Op 98a No 4
Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt Op 98a No 6
An die Türen will ich schleichen Op 98a No
Vier Husarenlieder von Nikolaus Lenau Op 117
I Der Husar, trara!
II Der leidige Frieden
III Den grünen Zeigern
IV Da liegt der Feinde gestreckte Schar
Drei Gedichte von Emanuel Geibel Op 30
I Der Knabe mit dem Wunderhorn
II Der Page
III Der Hidalgo
Die Lõwenbraut Op 31 No 1
Zwölf Gedichte von Justinus Kerner Op 35
I Lust der Sturmnacht
II Stirb, Lieb’ und Freud’!
III Wanderlied
IV Erstes Grün
V Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend
VI Auf das Trinkglas eines verstorbenen Freundes
VII Wanderung
VIII Stille Liebe
IX Frage
X Stille Tränen
XI Wer machte dich so krank?
XII Alte Laute

What the critics say

The Sunday Times

‘The young English baritone’s gorgeous timbre now sounds in prime condition and his understanding of the German Lied is second to none. His programme, too, is characteristically adventurous. Johnson, too, is deeply immersed in this music and his 82-page booklet is a collector’s item.’

BBC Music Magazine

‘No singer has sung them so beautifully or so naturally as Simon Keenlyside’

Alan Blyth for Gramophone, March 1998

Two general points first: in his January “Quarterly” JBS touched on the fact that so many singers today, especially baritones, choose the soft-palate technique. Keenlyside opts for what we used to hear, what JBS called “the brighter, harder tone”, more daring in its application, with top notes attacked in full-frontal manner rather than in the “softer-grained, less penetrative” technique of baritones such as Goerne. Of course there’s room for both styles, but I know I much prefer the singing, forthright and virile, that I hear on this disc, which is not to say that Keenlyside, where appropriate, cannot adopt a warm, rounded, seductive tone.

Then Graham Johnson in his notes says that what we have always lacked is a convincing way of performing late Schumann songs, often spare in texture and elusive in style. Well, he and Keenlyside seem to have found one here in their wholly admirable versions of the very different Opp. 98a and 117. The Op. 98a settings of the Harper’s outpourings from Wilhelm Meister have always stood in the shade of those by Schubert and Wolf. This pair show incontrovertibly that there’s much to be said for Schumann’s versions, capturing the essence of the old man’s sad musings, as set by the composer in a typically free and imaginative way, alert to every nuance in the texts. The extroverted Lenau Husarenlieder could hardly be more different. Keenlyside identifies in turn with the bravado of the first, the cynicism of the second, and the eerie, death-dominated mood of the fourth. The third, as Johnson avers, is a bit of a dud.

Then it’s back to the miracle year of 1840 for three seldom-heard Geibel Knabenhorn settings, Op. 30. The pair enter into the open-hearted mood called for by these songs, most of all in the irresistible “Der Hidalgo”, theirs the equal of, if not superior to, Heinrich Schlusnus’s famous rendering (Preiser, 1/94) in terms of genuine swagger. Keenlyside is just as forthright in the ballad Die Lowenbraut and in those of Op. 35, the well-known Kerner settings, which display Schumann’s Florestan side, and he brings impressive control to the Eusebius ones, not least the all-enveloping “Stille Tranen”. It’s only when you go to Fischer-Dieskau’s overwhelming live 1959 interpretation on Orfeo – unfair comparison, I know, but there it is – that you realize how much a larger range of expression and controlled technique can add to the meaning of this quasi-cycle, but the new one is convincing in its own right and unerringly paced.

The recording, Johnson’s persuasive playing and his long and informative notes are of the exceptional standard we have come to expect from this source. Strongly recommended.’

The following is an extract from Songs for Low Voices. An up-close look at the virtues and vices of nine top lieder baritones.

Stephen Francis Vasta for Opera News August 2003

“What I’ve heard of the contributions of another Brit, Simon Keenlyside, to Hyperion’s Schumann edition is most impressive. His clean, handsome sound stays more consistently focused than Terfel’s and is more mobile as well (for example, in the Drei Gedichte von Emanuel Geibel). Keenlyside commands a wide dynamic range efficiently: his gently touched piano loses color as it ascends (“An die Türen”), but he can exploit in-between levels to express the emotional ambivalence of “Erstes Grün,” and to shape vividly the peculiar narrative of “Die Löwenbraut.” He is equally at home in the extroverted, ringy Vier Husarenlieder and the fervent, contained eloquence of “Stille Liebe.” Only a tendency for his narrow focus to become a constricted snarl at the bottom — especially noticeable in the repeated low Gs at “in ihrem,” in the last of the Husarenlieder — distracts from Keenlyside’s otherwise polished, communicative work.”

F. Paul Driscoll for Opera News, 11 April 1998

After more than a decade spent completing the Schubert Edition, Hyperion and Johnson have embarked on a similar project devoted to Schumann. In Vol. 2, British baritone Simon Keenlyside (another veteran of the Schubert series) sings a group of Goethe, Lenau, Geibel and Kerner settings with superb conviction, his clean, firm attack especially apt in the “Ballade des Harfners” and the tin-soldier posturing of “Der Husar, trara!” In “An die Türen will ich schliechen” his gradually thinning tone suggests the narrator’s vacant-eyed madness, and in the baroquely sentimental “Die Löwenbraut” a flick of lightness on the word “Jungfrau” catches the bride’s terror as she enters the lion’s cage. Even more impressive are a stunning “Stirb, Lieb’ und Freud’!,” the contrasting emotions (and voices) of narrator and subject heartbreakingly accurate, and a world-class “Stille Tränen,” its inner tension sustained with masterly legato. Johnson is the perfect partner, his drily witty suggestion of finger-drumming boredom in “Der leidige Frieden” standing as one of the disc’s highlights.

John Allison, BBC Music Magazine

In parallel with their magisterial complete Schubert song edition, Hyperion and Graham Johnson are in the early stages of a similar Schumann project. Whether or not the lesser-known – and sometimes lesser – Schumann songs will stand up to this treatment remains to be seen, though, of course, all the composer’s Lieder deserve to be taken as seriously as they are here. Few artists could be more persuasive in them than Simon Keenlyside, who is a Lieder singer in the best tradition, possessed of a firm yet flexible baritone and faultless German. His shading of words and sense of line could hardly be bettered, but there are moments when the voice sounds tired.

Not many of the songs here are top-drawer Schumann, but the programming by poet is both satisfying and logical. Five writers are featured. The finest and best-known group, the set of 12 poems by Justinus Kerner, also inspires the most searching performances: Keenlyside captures the long melodic sweep of ‘Stille Tränen’ while singing with restraint, and brings out all the bareness of ‘Alte Laute’. In ‘Der Page’, a Geibel setting, he makes the most of the unusual speech-song. The songs from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship evoke a torment tinged with madness. Johnson is on his best form, pointing up every emotion in the piano parts.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

asperia July 15, 2010 at 7:25 pm

this is my most favourite Simon´s CD, Hidalgo is the most favourite lied

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