Schumann: Twelve Kerner Poems, Op. 35; Liederkreis, Op. 39; Lieder, Op. 40/1, 2, 3, 4

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Twelve Kerner Poems, Op. 35; Liederkreis, Op. 39; Lieder, Op. 40/1, 2, 3, 4
PERFORMER: Andreas Schmidt (baritone)Rudolf Jansen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 439 943-2 DDD
When Clara Schumann met Hans Christian Andersen on a concert tour of Denmark (oh, to have been a fly on the wall!), she was struck by the writer’s ‘child-like soul’. Robert Schumann’s settings of his verse, with their clear-sighted responses to a single mood – a mother at a cradle, a pair of blue eyes glimpsed through a frosty window-pane – suit well the earnest, immaculately groomed and lovingly enunciated baritone of Andreas Schmidt.

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So do Schumann’s 12 settings of poems by Kerner: the simplicity of their folksong roots, the sobriety of their vision of alienation from man to nature, is shaped with Schmidt’s instinctive musical understanding, and focused in Rudolf Jansen’s robustly colourful piano playing.

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There are times, though, and nowhere more so than in Liederkreis, when the listener wants more. There are question marks, exclamation marks, doubts and smiles which rarely seem to cross Schmidt’s face, ambiguous half-lights and glimpses of the shadow-side of the soul which barely graze his consciousness. Schmidt’s control of line and dynamics in ‘Mondnacht’ is exemplary; but his imagination is just not keenly enough engaged to discover the hushed wonder and sense of apprehension behind it. The frisson factor here is simply too low. Hilary Finch