Schumann: Der Rose Pilgerfahrt

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Der Rose Pilgerfahrt
PERFORMER: Christiane Oelze (soprano), Birgit Remmert (alto), Werner Güra (tenor), Hanno Müller-Brachmann (bass); Philip Mayers (piano); RIAS Chamber Choir/Marcus Creed
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901668
Completed some months after Schumann’s move from Dresden to D¸sseldorf in the early 1850s, Der Rose Pilgerfahrt represents a valiant attempt to create a novel form of secular oratorio devoid of the self-conscious archaic structures favoured by most early 19th-century protagonists of the genre. Out of the window, therefore, go such familiar stock gestures as recitative and the customary fugue. Instead Schumann provides a through-composed narrative in which the various characters of the rather insipid story sing a sequence of solos and duets with a few choruses thrown in for good measure.

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Although more familiar in its later orchestral arrangement, Der Rose Pilgerfahrt was originally performed with piano accompaniment, and it’s this version that can be heard on the present release. There’s little doubt that the piano provides a more intimate framework for the musical argument, and the 1850 Streicher performed by Philip Mayers is beautifully responsive to Schumann’s delicate figurations. I was also highly impressed by the wonderfully sensitive singing of the RIAS-Kammerchor under Marcus Creed and a team of fine young soloists. Nonetheless, given the oratorio’s extended length and lack of dramatic incident, the orchestral version is preferable, offering a much wider range of colour. Newcomers to this work should therefore opt for the recently released performance on Opus 111 with Das Neue Orchester under Christoph Spering. Erik Levi