Lucy Crowe and William Berger perform duets by Schumann, Mendelssohn and Cornelius

'Lucy Crowe and William Berger are vocal soul mates, as revealed at once in the nostalgic thoughts of home of ‘Heimatgedenken’'

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COMPOSERS: Felix Mendelssohn,Peter Cornelius,Robert Schumann
LABELS: Delphian
ALBUM TITLE: Duet
WORKS: Works by Schumann, Mendelssohn & Cornelius
PERFORMER: Lucy Crowe (soprano), William Berger (baritone), Iain Burnside (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Delphian DCD 34167

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The effect on repertoire of our celebrity culture, with its over-feeding of the performing ego, is a topic worthy of investigation. The thought is inspired by this delectable recital of rarely-performed 19th-century duets – a form of music making all but lost during the course of the last century.

Here we have little-known songs by Cornelius, Mendelssohn and Schumann, lovingly championed in the mellow and spacious acoustic of St Mary’s, Haddington, in East Lothian. Peter Cornelius first – that somewhat neglected younger contemporary of Mendelssohn and Schumann. Lucy Crowe and William Berger are vocal soul mates, as revealed at once in the nostalgic thoughts of home of ‘Heimatgedenken’, and in Cornelius’s setting of Schlegel’s artful translation of Shakespeare’s ‘Come away, death’ – a song certainly ready for exhumation this anniversary year.

Then Mendelssohn: Iain Burnside leaps, nimble-fingered, into the beating heart of the composer’s responses to Heine, and then into the vernal dance of ‘Maiglöckchen’. And both singers relish Mendelssohn’s gently oscillating setting of Robert Burns’s ‘O wert thou in the cauld blast!’

And, best of all, Schumann. He skilfully, and characteristically, avoids sentimentality in setting the sepia-photo vignette of ‘Familien-Gemälde’; gives exhilarating avian chase in ‘Das Glück’; and Crowe and Berger uncover the shamefully neglected Rückert setting, ‘Ich bin dein Baum’.

In casting, revelatory programming and true vocal chamber music making, this CD is a small miracle to be cherished.

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Hilary Finch