Schumann: Liederkreis, Op. 39; Frauenliebe und -Leben; Songs on Poems by Lord Byron; Four Rückert Songs

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Roméo Records
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann
WORKS: Liederkreis, Op. 39; Frauenliebe und -Leben; Songs on Poems by Lord Byron; Four Rückert Songs
PERFORMER: Sharon Rostorf-Zamir (soprano), Jonathan Zak (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 7260

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Two of Schumann’s greatest cycles are here rounded off by a couple of smaller groups, settings of Byron (from Hebrew originals) and Rückert compiled from various opus numbers (one wrongly identified in the documentation, incidentally). It makes an attractive programme, but interest naturally centres on the major works. Throughout the Op. 39 Liederkreis the Israeli soprano shows emotional warmth and an ability to encompass long phrases, but there’s an occasional suggestion of frailty in the tone itself. She deploys some imagination in the presentation of both text and notes, but not enough colouristic range to realise her intentions. She’s musical and always pleasant to listen to, but her vocal control is incomplete, and it has to be said that her interpretations, judged by the highest standards – such as on Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s recording with Christoph Eschenbach at the piano – are limited. As an interpreter, she’s clearly more inside Frauenliebe und -Leben, and her depth of commitment can be sensed in her greater depth of tone. Once again, in a crowded market, it’s not enough to challenge the greatest performances, of which Janet Baker’s with Martin Isepp at the piano still shines brightest. What gives this issue its most valuable element is the playing of pianist Jonathan Zak. There’s real moonlight in his accompaniment to ‘Mondnacht’, and the definition and musical insight he brings to Frauenliebe are both exceptional. What lets both him and his soprano down is the sound quality, which is on the shallow side. George Hall