Schumann: Sechs Gesänge, Op. 107; Sechs Gedichte und Requiem, Op. 90

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Sechs Gesänge, Op. 107; Sechs Gedichte und Requiem, Op. 90
PERFORMER: Christine Schäfer (soprano)Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDJ 33101 DDD
With the end of Hyperion’s acclaimed Schubert edition in sight, its mastermind, the pianist Graham Johnson, has embarked on recording Schumann’s complete Lieder. And if this, the first issue in the series, is anything to go by, it will be an even more remarkable issue. Oddly, it’s a recital of late songs: the Sechs Gesänge, Op. 107, Sechs Gedichte und Requiem, Op. 90, and 19 other settings (of, among others, Goethe, Mörike and Rückert). But if they are less familiar than the great song cycles of his youth, this beautifully judged performance puts forward a powerful case for them. Johnson’s account of the piano parts is superlative: nothing is overstated; everything is considered; and the effect is both balmy and stimulating. (His booklet notes are also exemplary – comprehensive, erudite, instructive – and deserve publication in their own right.)

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After a dearth of female Germanophone Lieder singers, Christine Schäfer (fêted at Salzburg last year; now star of the Glyndebourne Lulu) is at the forefront of a rising generation (including also Juliane Banse and Angelika Kirchschlager), and on the evidence here, her reputation is absolutely justified. Her voice combines ethereal radiance and clarity with resolute, unwavering focus, and there is a sharp intelligence evident in the way she dramatises, though never overplays, the unhappy texts. Claire Wrathall