Schumann: Der Rose Pilgerfahrt

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Der Rose Pilgerfahrt
PERFORMER: Inga Nielsen, Helle Hinz (soprano), Deon van der Walt (tenor), Annemarie Møller, Elisabeth Halling (alto), Guido Paevatalu (baritone), Christian Christiansen (bass); Danish National RSO & Choir/Gustav Kuhn
This is the first in the series of late choral works which Schumann composed after moving to Dusseldorf in 1850. One of his new tasks was to conduct the local choir and orchestra, but he also took part in smaller scale music-making, and Der Rose Pilgerfahrt (The Pilgrimage of the Rose) was first performed in 1851 with piano accompaniment; Schumann orchestrated the work the following year. Moritz Horn’s poem is so embarrassingly sentimental that Chandos cannot bring itself to print a translation. It tells of a pure rose made human, in the form of a woman who experiences the joys and sorrows of mortals before returning to the angels. The narrative is slight, and there’s little drama in the 24 independent numbers, loosely joined. There are several hallmarks of German Romanticism: a hunting song for male chorus and horns, a peasant dance and the obligatory fairy chorus (straight out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Most of the material is utterly unmemorable, and yet if one comes to the piece without great expectations, one can find much beauty in the work’s charming lyricism. Certainly Gustav Kuhn’s direction does Schumann proud, with the Danish orchestra and on fine form. Inga Nielsen makes a delightful Rose, and Deon van der Walt is the splendid tenor who carries many of the solos. Stephen Maddock