Schumann: Liederkreis, Op. 24; Lieder, Op. 35

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Liederkreis, Op. 24; Lieder, Op. 35
PERFORMER: Jochen Kupfer (baritone), Reinild Mees (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 13698
The once-neglected younger Schumann Liederkreis, with its settings of Heinrich Heine, is at last coming into its own, with new recordings appearing from young Lieder singers almost every month. Jochen Kupfer, with his fresh, well-groomed baritone, clearly has a high respect for the Op. 24 cycle, moulding each line in careful, sensitive legato – particularly eloquent for the reflection of Berg and Burg in the still waters of the Rhine. But he never quite takes the racing pulse of these songs: as Ian Bostridge knows so well, sadness and melancholy seldom preclude ardour in the writing of Schumann.

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This lack of a sense of open-eyed wonder is, alas, only emphasised by the over-deliberate, sometimes sluggish playing of Reinild Mees, who does little to persuade the listener that the 1850 Viennese Streicher piano she uses has enough character to be preferred over and above the colours and nuances of a Steinway. And the instrument’s self-effacing tones are further blurred by a slightly over-resonant acoustic.

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Kupfer is freer, more energetic and engaged in the Kerner Lieder; though his comparatively weak head voice forces him into an unwise falsetto for the voice of the nun in the second song. But he sings throughout with a rhythmic vigour clearly influenced by the example of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, whose championship of these songs of ‘sadness, loneliness, renunciation and madness’ ensured them a permanent and entire place in the repertoire, and whose performances still remain the benchmark, despite impressive recordings from Matthias Goerne and Simon Keenlyside. Hilary Finch