Schumann: Zwölfe Gedichte

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Medici Arts
WORKS: Zwölfe Gedichte, Op. 35; 20 Lieder und Gesänge aus dem Lyrischen Intermezzo
PERFORMER: Thomas Hampson (baritone), Wolfram Rieger (piano) (Munich, 2007)
CATALOGUE NO: 2072508 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)

It is significant we hear no applause between Thomas Hampson’s outstanding live performances of these two cycles. He makes us realise how interdependent they are and how we understand each more fully in the presence of the other.
The Kerner-Lieder make huge demands, both on the full range of the voice, and on the performers’ ability to build and sustain intensity through many an enigmatic moment. Hampson and Wolfram Rieger show themselves to be more than equal to the task, however.
Both singer and pianist are at one with the emotional evolution of the cycle. They build up a huge head of steam through a ‘Frage’ whose plaintive questionings lead to an almost unbearably moving final pair of songs.
A similar intensity characterises this Dichterliebe: these are not the 16 songs we might expect, but rather the 20 settings from Heine’s Buch der Lieder from Schumann’s original manuscript.
He makes a compelling case for the extra songs: although  somewhat less persuasive are the textual variants of Schumann’s original, unamended thinking.
The editing of the longshots, middle-distance and close-ups is sensitively paced within each song, with lighting and camera angles faithfully recreating a live recital experience. There are no extras: with performances of this stature, who needs them?