Schumann: Dichterliebe; Liederkreis; Lieder nach Heinrich Heine

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LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Dichterliebe; Liederkreis; Lieder nach Heinrich Heine
PERFORMER: Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone), Imogen Cooper (piano)
Two qualities distinguish the singing of Wolfgang Holzmair. He has the exact measure of his light, high baritone, breathing freely, without a moment of strain, so that the voice can really sing. And his performances have possibly the closest focus of any baritone of his generation: imagination and intelligence have clearly worked long on every word, its placing and its tone of voice. Both qualities come into their own in Schumann’s settings of Heinrich Heine in which tenderness is invariably shadowed by bitterness, even irony. The secret of the second Tragödie, for instance, is barely revealed; and in ‘Du bist wie eine Blume’ the worm of mortality is already i’ th’ bud.


Dream predominates in Holzmair’s responses to the Op. 24 Liederkreis: As in Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin, we eavesdrop on the extreme emotions of youth in a half-waking, half-sleeping sensibility. Dream is of the essence, too, in Dichterliebe. Holzmair’s meticulous shaping of the melodic underlay of words like ‘birdsong’ and ‘longing’ only throw into relief the anger of reality confronted in a searing ‘I’ll not complain’ (Holzmair resolutely dares the high-register option here), and in the bleak bitterness of the last four songs. Hilary Finch