It is comparatively rare to find the Op. 24 and Op. 39 Liederkreis of Schumann face to face on disc. But Gerald Finley’s latest recital enables fascinating comparisons to be made between the emotional climate and musical language of two cycles both written in 1840: one in February, the other in the wunderschönen Monat of May, a contemporary of the great song cycle Dichterliebe.
With his slow tempos and dark vowels, Finley draws from the Op. 39 Eichendorff Liederkreis a real sense of the fear lurking behind even the ecstasies of love. It’s as though Schumann himself, finally happily married to Clara, is haunted by the fear that it is all, perhaps, just too much of happiness. Julius Drake is perfectly attuned to the palette of shifting colours in Finley’s dark baritone – here in top form. I’d have liked a little more edge to the latent anger within the Op. 24 cycle; though both musicians find hidden depths in these highly volatile and introspective responses to Heine.
The two cycles are separated by a performance of the contemporary Liederbuch eine Malers, as direct as Schumann’s own responses to the simpler, folksy vein of Robert Reinick’s verse.