Schumann: Liederkreis, Op. 39

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: EMI Debut
WORKS: Liederkreis, Op. 39
PERFORMER: Sophie Daneman (soprano) Julius Drake (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDZ 5 72828 2
The soprano Sophie Daneman and contralto Nathalie Stutzmann could scarcely sound more different: Daneman’s voice is polished, bleached beech to Stutzman’s varnished Victorian mahogany.

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These recitals have five songs in common, from the Liederalbum für die Jugend (which Stutzmann sings in its entirety). Daneman sings them as though they really are songs for the young: her approach is touchingly straightforward, all light, air and soaring sweetness, a style perfectly attuned to Julius Drake’s finely sensitive playing. Stutzmann takes an altogether more monumental line, balanced by Inger Södergren’s ponderous accompaniment, quite at odds with the texts, with their images of a child’s wonder at the sight of a ladybird, the appearance of a snowdrop, or the Sandman visiting sleeping children. There’s no disputing Stutzmann’s profound musicality and marvellous, molasses-like tones; it’s simply that her over-earnest, portentous manner is uninvolving and inappropriate, while the pretentious multi-tracking of the Hallelujahs in ‘Weihnachtslied’ is frankly embarrassing. The rest of her programme, Drei Lieder, Op. 30, and the disquieting Fünf Lieder, to macabre poems by Hans Christian Andersen, fares little better.

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Daneman begins her recital ambitiously with the Eichendorff Liederkreis, Op. 39. It’s not flawless, but her utterly unaffected style and brave avoidance of extraneous embellishment or portamento make this an original and refreshing account. Claire Wrathall