Schumann: Melancholie

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WORKS: Melancholie, Op. 74/6; Liederkreis, Op. 39; Lieder, Op. 40; Sechs Gedichte aus dem Liederbuch, Op. 36; Tief im Herzen trag’ ich Pein, Op. 138/2 etc
PERFORMER: Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Gerold Huber (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 88697168172


Seldom has Schumann’s Op. 39 Liederkreis found such a close soul mate, or more revelatory company. It has taken a baritone with the high musical intelligence and uncluttered approach of Christian Gerhaher to devise a recital which not only places Schumann’s settings of Eichendorff in thrillingly rewarding context, but refreshes and restores responses to the cycle itself. First the context. The title-song of this recital, ‘Melancholie’, is abstracted from Schumann’s Spanisches Liederspiel and, with ‘Tief im Herzen trag’ ich Pein’, provides a frame of gently pleasurable pain for this programme. More importantly, Gerhaher twins the Eichendorff Liederkreis with Schumann’s four settings of poems by Hans Christian Andersen – and reveals, in minutely sensitive, sometimes harrowing performances, their emotional and musical kinship. The settings of Robert Reinick’s more extrovert and ballad‑like Gedichte aus dem Liederbuch eines Malers find Gerhaher in new robust voice – only to withdraw once more into deep inwardness for Goethe’s Harper Songs. These are magisterial performances which reveal the songs’ own true stature. And the Op. 39 Liederkreis itself? Well, Gerhaher’s fusion of deeply pondered insight and unselfconscious enunciation, together with Gerold Huber’s sentient piano accompaniment, allow this exceptional performance to become a benchmark in its own right. A daringly slow ‘Mondnacht’ and ‘Zwielicht’ make these songs more strange and rich than ever. There are many greats in the catalogue worth revisiting time and again – notably Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s 1977 recording with Christoph Eschenbach (DG), and Werner Güra’s tenor performance with Jan Schultsz (Harmonia mundi). But, for the time being, Gerhaher has carved out a new standard for our times. Hilary Finch