Myrthen, Op. 25
Camilla Tilling (soprano), Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Gerold Huber (piano)
Sony Classical 19075945362 52:09 mins
In August 1840 a court ruling paved the way to a long-anticipated union. The following month Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck were joined in matrimony, and on the eve of the nuptials Robert presented his bride-to-be with the ultimate wedding present: Myrthen, 26 songs exploring the nature of love across four volumes. The binding was deluxe, unlike the partnership itself which, in due course, would be sundered by Robert’s descent into madness – prefigured by Gerhaher with forensic prescience. At one point in the Byron-setting ‘Aus den hebräischen Gesängen’ he conjures a cold spectral shiver that chills to the bone; and what a contradictory shock when ‘Räthsel’ – again to words by Byron – steals in as if butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth.
Those familiar with the first instalment of Gerhaher’s complete Schumann project will take the heightened characterisation in their stride. Nothing is ever ‘generalised’, and Gerhaher’s command of every facet of nuance (be it vocal colour or psychological insight) never compromises the overarching narrative. In this his resolve is immeasurably strengthened by pianist Gerold Huber whose chromatic probing, for example, in ‘Mein Herz ist schwer’, forges a searing union with the baritone’s anguished vocalisation. Together they energise the least promising of material so that the hymnic calm of ‘Zum schluss’ contrives journey’s end with no hint of anti-climax. Soprano Camilla Tiling ravishes in ‘Burns’, and floats ‘Die Lotusblume’ with a sumptuous languor, but never quite drills down as deeply as Gerhaher. The result is an imbalance, or seductive foil. You decide!