Alice Coote and Christian Blackshaw perform Schumann Lieder

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Robert Schumann
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann Lieder
WORKS: Dichterliebe; Frauenliebe und -leben; Widmung; Du bist wie eine Blume; Dem roten Röslein gleicht mein Lieb; Die Lotosblume; Meine Rose; Mein Schöner Stern!
PERFORMER: Alice Coote (mezzo-soprano), Christian Blackshaw (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Wigmore Hall Live WHLive 0079

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The uniquely thoughtful and penetrating insights offered by Alice Coote’s Winterreise and Christian Blackshaw’s Mozart in their respective earlier Wigmore Hall Live CDs led to high expectations of the collaboration of these two musicians at this recital last summer. And we were not disappointed. As one may hear on this album, from the very start, Schumann’s ‘bouquet’ of lovesongs is lightly held, thanks in no small part to Blackshaw’s influence in lightening and focusing Coote’s mezzo, so that we are not blown away by over-warm outbreaths of intensity.

And the sense of awe and wonder which hovers over this entire recital is particularly close-focused in the song cycle Frauenliebe und -Leben. Blackshaw’s piano playing is the ever-shifting heartbeat behind the wonderfully supple expressive contours of Coote’s voice, eloquently tracing those of Schumann’s melody. Blackshaw seldom allows Coote to become vocally side-tracked by the intensity of her moment-by-moment response: rather, they recreate together the elusive movement of the music’s whispered breath and being.

From the very start of Dichterliebe, Blackshaw again ensures clarity and evenness of pace, through Coote’s beautifully poised, sighing breath. He powerfully supports the piercing anguish of loss in her high register, and the dark longing and despair expressed within her chest voice. This performance revealingly searches out the cycle’s paradoxes of life and death, dream and reality, time and eternity. And the emotional narrative of Blackshaw’s piano postludes continues long after Coote’s final and breath-taking vocal disembodiment.

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Hilary Finch