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Decades – A Century of Song, Vol. 4

Anush Hovhannisyan (soprano), et al, Malcolm Martineau (piano) (VIVAT)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Decades – A Century of Song, Vol. 4
R Schumann: Liederkreis, Op. 24; plus songs by Dargomyzhsky, Donizetti, Franck, Geijer, Josephson, Lindblad & Mendelssohn
Anush Hovhannisyan (soprano), Ida Evelina Ränzlöv (mezzo-soprano), Nick Pritchard, Oliver Johnston (tenor), Florian Boesch, Alexey Gusev, Samuel Hasselhorn (baritone); Malcolm Martineau (piano)
VIVAT 119   72:02 mins


This disc, the fourth in the series, collects songs from 1840-50, a golden age that saw a seemingly endless flow of songs from Schumann’s pen. Fittingly, we open with his substantial Op. 24 Heine-Liederkreis, before working through a wide selection by seven other figures of varying renown, in different languages and spanning much of Europe. As with the previous discs, this brilliantly introduces lesser-known songs – and some fine young singers – while showcasing the huge stylistic range of art song.

That said, no discernible thread connects the music, poets, languages, topics or singers (of which there are seven). After the incomparable Heine-Schumann partnership, we tack between nationalistic songs, love ditties, mini-arias, etc, ending with Mendelssohn’s slightly heavy-handedly humorous ‘Warnung vor dem Rhein’. Nor are all the songs equally interesting – Dargomyzhsky outstays his welcome a little – but there are gems such as Franck’s finely crafted songs, nicely delivered by Nick Pritchard. Oliver Johnston’s Donizetti is tender. I particularly enjoyed Ida Ränzlöv’s beautiful tone in the old-fashioned, nature-steeped songs of the Swedish composers Lindblad, Josephson and Geijer. Samuel Hasselhorn brings magnificence to Mendelssohn, especially the ‘Nachtlied’.

Florian Boesch has a deep understanding of Heine’s searing texts; while I’d welcome some fuller singing, there is much to enjoy in his crooned delivery. Malcolm Martineau’s mercurial playing evokes the protagonist’s semi-deranged state of mind. He brings a light touch, good balance and beautiful sound to the rest.


Natasha Loges