Schumann: Dichterliebe, Op. 48; Lieder, Op. 90; Die Löwenbraut; Der arme Peter; Belsatzar

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Dichterliebe, Op. 48; Lieder, Op. 90; Die Löwenbraut; Der arme Peter; Belsatzar
PERFORMER: Christian Gerhaher (baritone),Gerold Huber (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 82876 58995 2
A new Dichterliebe from one of Germany’s most sought-after baritones: expectation is high, and this performance does not disappoint. Christian Gerhaher’s baritone is in its noble prime, faultlessly focused, incisive and displaying a palpable delight in the weight and measure of every word. A moment of tenderness on the word ‘Mai’, an ache of longing through ‘verlangen’: even in the first song, the listener is drawn in close. Gerhaher vacillates between heroic stoicism, whetted by anger, and a benumbed half-voice, as though the thought of the beloved causes him too much pain even to sing. At moments like these, time stands still: Gerhaher’s ‘Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet’ – bled of all colour, and with full value given to its silences – is one of the most chilling on disc. Gerold Huber is very much an equal partner, contributing endless fleeting insights in the inner voices of the piano writing. The recording acoustic has a slightly artificial studio resonance about it, and just occasionally Gerhaher’s intoxication with individual words can impede the free flow of Schumann’s lyricism. He could take a leaf or two out of Wolfgang Holzmair’s book here (Philips). Holzmair’s performance with Imogen Cooper is exceptional; but Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s recording with Christoph Eschenbach remains unsurpassed for the sheer glory of its supreme vocal realisation of an incomparable depth and breadth of imagination. Gerhaher’s programming is sensitive: the late, melancholy Nikolaus Lenau settings of Op. 90 are perfect soulmates for Dichterliebe – as are two more Heine settings, ‘Der arme Peter’ and the spooky ‘Belsatzar’; with a bonus in Chamisso’s gory piece of erotica, ‘Die Löwenbraut’. Hilary Finch