Miriam Alexandra and Erik Schneider perform Viardot’s Deutsche Lieder

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COMPOSERS: Viardot
LABELS: Oehms Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Viardot
WORKS: Deutsche Lieder
PERFORMER: Miriam Alexandra (soprano), Erik Schneider (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: OC 1878

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Pauline Viardot (1821-1910) is well remembered as one of the 19th-century’s great singers, while her own music is now attracting increased attention. The soprano on this selection of Viardot’s song settings in German obtained her DPhil with a dissertation on the artist.

The bulk of the songs here were composed in Baden-Baden, where Viardot resided with her husband Louis after she gave up the stage in 1863. Her estate there included a concert hall and a theatre where she staged the operas with piano on which she collaborated with a third member of her household – the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev, who may have been her lover.

Song was Viardot’s most regular field of compositional endeavour, and eight of the 27 examples here are recorded for the first time. Settings of Russian poets such as Turgenev, Fet and Pushkin were published by Breitkopf in 1865, and are performed here in the German translations of the original edition. Of the other songs, a particular favourite is the poet Eduard Mörike, whom Viardot considered ‘the greatest and most genuine in all German poetry after Goethe’.

Viardot’s style follows on from Mendelssohn and Schumann, with occasionally more advanced elements, while several of the accompaniments require a level of pianism well beyond salon standard. There’s quite a wide range of mood, with some items essentially aiming for charm while others are a good deal more ambitious.

Though she’s clearly taxed by their demands, Miriam Alexander’s small, delicate soprano gives a good account of them. Eric Schneider’s pianism is more confident, though neither of them is well-served by the limited sound.

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George Hall