LABELS: Challenge Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Liederkreis
WORKS: Songs by Britten, Schumann and Brahms
PERFORMER: Anna Lucia Richter (soprano), Michael Gees (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CC 72687
Don’t be put off by the performers’ introductory liner-notes; in fact, don’t read them at all until afterwards. The quasi-philosophical musings which form their apologia overweigh the imaginative delight of this recital itself. Taking Schumann’s Op. 39 Liederkreis as its starting point and inspiration, this programme creates a hypnotic continuum of dream and remembrances of things past, through the music of Schumann, Brahms and Britten – and, enchantingly, six of the performers’ own ‘improvisations’ (they’re really new compositions in their own right) on the poems of Eichendorff.
So Anna Lucia Richter’s pearly, wide-eyed soprano floats, most sensitively inflected, through the unaccompanied opening of Britten’s The trees they grow so high; its last notes toll and become transmuted into a dreamlike, almost Mahlerian improvisation on Eichendorff’s A song sleeps – a poem which reappears, rapturously transformed, as the penultimate song of the recital. On into the first song of Schumann’s Eichendorff Liederkreis, In der Fremde – and on further into a second improvisation, as the poet’s Der alte Garten wanders into Britten’s The Ash Grove. And so on.
This really does all work extremely well, and largely thanks to the imaginative artistry of Richter’s dulcet yet ardent soprano and Michael Gees’s beautifully shaped piano accompaniments. The folksongs of Brahms and Britten become a kind of haunting subtext to Schumann’s Liederkreis as, with ‘I wonder as I wander’, the circle is closed.