Schumann: Complete Songs, Vol. 4

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Complete Songs, Vol. 4
PERFORMER: Stella Doufexis (mezzo-soprano), Oliver Widmer (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano); London Schubert Chorale/Stephen Layton
CATALOGUE NO: CDJ 33104
Two of Graham Johnson’s protégés, the sweet-voiced mezzo-soprano Stella Doufexis and the ever more assured baritone Oliver Widmer, visit this fourth volume of Hyperion’s complete songs of Robert Schumann. Their programme is dominated by 12 of the poems Schumann set from Rückert’s vast anthology Liebesfrühling. Love’s springtime is celebrated by both Robert and Clara and sometimes, as Johnson’s typically illuminating commentary discusses, it’s difficult to tell quite who wrote what.

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Clara is certainly the author of ‘Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen’, brightly sung by Doufexis, though a little more robust support at the top of her range would have increased its fervour. Robert’s luscious ‘Rose, Meer und Sonne’ is given a gentle, awe-filled performance by Widmer, though his voice, too, ideally needs a little more of a charge to sustain the song’s ardour through its 10 stanzas.

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From the Lieder und Gesänge of Op. 51 Widmer skilfully negotiates the high-flying, at times turbulent, Geibel setting, ‘Sehnsucht’; from the Op. 45 Romanzen und Balladen he brings a sense of live imagination to the deckchair travellers’ tales of ‘Abends am Strand’. Three unaccompanied choral settings are most sensitively sung by Stephen Layton’s London Schubert Chorale; and the enjoyment of the entire disc is enhanced by Richard Stokes’s fine new song translations. Hilary Finch