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COMPOSERS: Lachner,Schumann
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Schumann: Liederkreis, Op. 24; Dichterliebe lachner Sängerfahrt, Op. 33: Im Mai; Die Meerfrau; Das Fischermädchen; Ein Traumbild; Die einsame Träne
PERFORMER: Mark Padmore (tenor), Kristian Bezuidenhout (fortepiano)

Mark Padmore and fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout combine  here to perform two of Schumann’s major cycles to words by Heine. They also throw in a selection of five Heine settings by the largely forgotten Franz Lachner (1803-90) from his Sängerfahrt (Singer’s Journey), which include the same
text – ‘Im wunderschönen Monat Mai’ – with which Schumann’s Dichterliebe begins.
Lachner loomed larger in his day than in ours, when he is mostly remembered for adding the sung recitatives to Cherubini’s spoken-dialogue opera Médée familiar from the Callas recording. Compared to Schumann’s opening number, his ‘Im Mai’ lacks imagination and concentration, though it’s attractive enough. But some of his other songs – especially ‘Die Meerfrau’ and ‘Ein Traumbild’ – possess real potency, and prove worthwhile rediscoveries. (The cycle has been recorded complete by Rufus Müller and Christoph Hammer.)  
Throughout these, and the Schumann items, Mark Padmore is musically scrupulous, drawing on an inherent plangency in his tone to explore songs regularly focusing on lost love and despair. The Op. 24 Liederkreis calls for a wide range of expression, including the vehemence of ‘Warte, warte, wilder Schiffmann’ and the emotional depths of ‘Berg’ und Burgen schau’n herunter’, and from a circumscribed palette Padmore draws an intense and startling range of colour.
In the even more bitter and integrated Dichterliebe, the evident intelligence and directness of both performers reaches an almost perfect unity of approach through their mutually supportive expression. Bezuidenhout, incidentally, plays an Erard piano of 1837, almost exactly contemporary with the material and finely suited to its performance. George Hall