WORKS: 12 Gedichte, Op. 35 (Kerner); Liederkreis, Op. 39 (Eichendorff)
PERFORMER: Margaret Price (soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66596 DDD
On each of these new Schumann records a distinguished female recitalist, highly experienced in the field, puts a strongly personal stamp on her selection. And on each, the voice seems some way past its best days. In consequence, both discs are probably more wisely directed to convinced fans of the singer in question than to first-time Schumann explorers.
The most impressive quality of Price’s lieder singing has always been its combination of grand scale, sweeping dramatic fervour and pure, glowing tone. In the most demanding part of the Eichendorff cycle, and in such a wide-ranging Kerner song as ‘Stille Tranen’, she can still achieve it; in general, though, her decline can no longer be disguised, particularly in the smaller songs. Hyperion’s unfocused recording is no help.
While Shirai recreates much of the imaginative freshness and delicacy that have won her so many concert-hall admirers, a metallic edge and an intermittent glassiness in quieter phrases now regularly undermine her best efforts. Her programme is an attractive mixture of rare and popular Schumann; the partnership with Holl (her husband) produces more forthright results than does Price’s with the unfamiliarly reticent Johnson. Max Loppert