Lieder: Schumann • Wolf
It’s widely agreed that after 30 years CD packaging and booklets still often leave everything to be desired. When you have a recital of German songs lasting an hour, with translations of the stuff about the performers and cursory notes on the pieces, why the German words only for the songs and not the English? On that ground alone I’d advise people to ignore this issue, though there are lovely things here. But given that Anne Schwanewilms is one of the finest singers of our time, there should be more. Partly it’s a matter of her vocal condition: often she sounds strained as she goes above the stave, and there are many indistinct words. Partly I think it’s the placing of the microphones so that the voice sounds edgy and acidic, perhaps with intent, but she can’t have meant it to sound like that so regularly.
In both these groups of songs she has formidable competition. The Schumann Op. 39 cycle, not a cycle as Dichterliebe is but nonetheless a whole experience, has been recorded with distinction so many times that only this singer’s admirers could want this version. And though Wolf’s settings of Mörike are less familiar, they have still had the recorded attention of many fine artists. Manuel Lange, the pianist, is helpful without making the positive contribution we have come to expect from accompanists.