A Liederspiel devised by Graham Johnson: songs and duets by Brahms, Schumann, Wolf, Mendelssohn, etc

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COMPOSERS: A Liederspiel devised by Graham Johnson: songs and duets by Brahms,etc,Mendelssohn,Schumann,Wolf
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Women’s Lives and Loves
WORKS: A Liederspiel devised by Graham Johnson: songs and duets
PERFORMER: Felicity Lott (soprano), Angelika Kirchschlager (mezzo-soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67563
The new and delightful professional friendship between Felicity Lott and Angelika Kirchschlager is celebrated in yet another tour de force of programming by Graham Johnson: a recital of no fewer then 46 numbers which follows the emotional cycle within Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben from lovestruck first meeting to loss and love eternal – but through different composers’ settings of the Chamisso poems, interwoven with songs by Wolf, and duets by Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms. This is a virtuoso concept, beautifully realised. Glimpses of a Woman’s Love and Life are reflected and refracted through shifting contexts and responses, as accompaniments, readings, songs and duets hurtle one after another in a heady momentum. Sometimes they interleave, and even magically counterpoint with each other.

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But I’ll leave you to experience the conjuring for yourself. For conjuring it is: any element of the didactic is totally absent in this seamless garment of word and music. Fragments of the Schumann we know and love surface and return like a mantra embedding itself deeper and deeper into the subsconscious, as a point of reference for the outstanding performances of all three musicians. And, at the end, Johnson’s postlude to the Schumann elides into the entwined voices of Brahms’s ‘Klänge’ – only to return as a curtain slowly falling at the end of a recital as near perfection as I know. Hilary Finch