Schumann: Lieder (transcr. Clara Schumann)

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LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Lieder (transcr. Clara Schumann)
PERFORMER: Cord Garben (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 79758 2
In Schumann’s songs the so-called accompanist isn’t merely that, for the piano parts are as important as the vocal line. Which makes things easier for anyone arranging the songs for piano solo, as the composer’s wife Clara evidently appreciated. Unlike Liszt or other transcribers who blew up even quite simple songs into sonorous tone poems for heavyweight pianists, Clara left as much alone as possible. There is virtually only one song here, ‘Frühlingsnacht’, in which there is a slight sense of awkwardness in fitting the vocal line and piano part together, and as if to acknowledge this, Clara also made a simpler version which hasn’t been recorded. That said, there’s no reason why Cord Garben should play so much like a brow-beaten accompanist who has to defer to his singer. Why, one wonders, is he so secretive and apologetic about ‘Der Knabe mit dem Wunderhorn’, which surely calls for a more forthright approach? Whether the engineer moved his microphone so near the piano because of Garben’s style or whether the pianist adapted himself to the microphone, in either case the close recording is mercilessly unflattering. Some of the simpler or more intimate songs like ‘Mondnacht’, ‘Die Stille’ and ‘Volksliedchen’ are touching, and ‘Der Nussbaum’ is sensitively handled, but many of the others need a fully developed soloist’s finesse. Adrian Jack