LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Liederkreis, Op. 24; Belsazar; Romanzen und Balladen, Opp. 45, 49, 53 & 64
PERFORMER: Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto), Inger Södergren (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68900 2
Each Schumann Liederkreis – the Op. 24, setting poems by Heine, and the Op. 39 Eichendorff cycle – is a quite different creature: the first a chain of fleeting mood images, the second a frieze of archetypal Romantic tableaux, highly coloured, yet still elusive of mood and spirit. Both have been recorded by every Lieder singer worth his or her salt, so each newcomer has quite a series of acts to follow.
Nathalie Stutzmann’s Op. 24 cycle rings out with a sensuous ardour reminiscent of Brigitte Fassbaender’s formidable recording: there is vibrant colour in each beautifully sculpted line. But at times Stutzmann can overload Schumann’s music with rubato, vibrato and portamento, weighing down these most fragile of songs, and occasionally distorting their contours. This is something of which Ian Bostridge is never guilty; his benchmark recording has all the instinctive sense of scale and nuance of his great predecessor Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, with the added excitement of a first, enraptured encounter with the work.
Bryn Terfel approached the Op. 39 Liederkreis three years ago in Edinburgh, and went straight for the warm, fast-beating heart of the work. He and Malcolm Martineau give generous time and space for its long sighs of yearning, and really inhabit each larger-than-life tableau of the dark forests and moonlit nights of the German Romantic psyche. Terfel doesn’t yet convey quite that fine balance between the dreaming and the waking consciousness, that elusive sense of wonder and menace which Fischer-Dieskau uniquely achieves in a performance with Christoph Eschenbach which finds perfect pacing within and between songs. Hilary Finch