LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Das Paradies und die Peri
PERFORMER: Soloists; Europa ChorAkademie, South West German CO Pforzheim & Wind Ensemble/Joshard Daus
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 87817 2
Schumann’s oratorio ‘for happy people’, as he put it, earned him his first significant international success, though it’s hardly a familiar concert item today. This is the most purely lyrical among his large-scale vocal works, and if its subject matter, drawn from one of the oriental tales in Thomas Moore’s epic verse-extravaganza Lalla Rookh, may strike us as uncomfortably sentimental, the score itself is consistently inspired.
This finely recorded live performance, though given without the luxury of a star-studded cast, is a conspicuous success. Joshard Daus may not be the most dynamic of conductors, but he has a fine grasp of the music, and he elicits warm performances from his orchestra and soloists. Simone Kermes is outstanding in the role of the Peri, managing to float her voice quite beautifully; and although the principal tenor, Thomas Dewald, cannot match the purity of voice that Christoph Prégardien produces for John Eliot Gardiner, he is unfailingly musical. In the end, the superior choral singing and the greater impact of the orchestral playing on the Gardiner carry the day (and it’s worth considering that his version also throws in Schumann’s exquisite Requiem für Mignon and the rare Nachtlied for chorus and orchestra); but as an inexpensive means of getting to know one of Schumann’s major works this newcomer can be strongly recommended. A serious caveat, however: the booklet contains no fewer than 16 pages of dual-language artists’ biographies, but neglects to provide a translation of the nine-page libretto. Misha Donat