Matthias Goerne and Markus Hinterhauser perform choral works by Schumann

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann
WORKS: Einsamkeit: Sechs Gedichte und Requiem, Op. 90; Myrthen, Op. 25; Gesänge, Op. 89
PERFORMER: Matthias Goerne (baritone), Markus Hinterhauser (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMM 902243

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Robert Schumann’s late music is usually dismissed as uninspired, or foreshadowing his eventual decline into insanity. Matthias Goerne’s latest recording, Einsamkeit, proves the opposite – provided you’re willing to make the journey with him.

The recording collects 19 largely unknown songs about loneliness, and its counterpart, solitude. Most are understandably slow, gloomy or introspective. It’s a risky proposition, but I think Goerne and Markus Hinterhäuser pull it off. The songs are expertly chosen, especially those from Schumann’s late, great period of song, 1849-52. Not only was this a gruelling time for Schumann professionally, but Europe was slowly recovering from the bloody 1848 revolutions. These stripped-back settings can be painfully raw, and the poetry is absolutely revelatory. 

The recital is bookended with selections from the devastatingly beautiful Op. 90 Lenau settings and the Op. 89 Gesänge. At the core of the recital are old favourites like ‘Du bist wie eine Blume’, and the magisterial ‘Nachtlied’ (‘Über allen Gipfeln’), Goethe’s poem of death and peace.

Goerne is a virtuoso of the recording studio. He mostly keeps to a subdued, intimate murmer, and his molten legato is barely touched by consonants. (Thankfully, good translations are available in the booklet.) Hinterhäuser’s flexible, tender accompaniment evokes the private interiors in which these songs were sung. Both artists consciously understate and underplay, reminding us that true aloneness looks inward. If you buy just one song recording this month, this should be it.

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Natasha Loges