WORKS: Kerner Lieder, Op. 35
PERFORMER: Simon Keenlyside (baritone)Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDJ 33102
In parallel with their magisterial complete Schubert song edition, Hyperion and Graham Johnson are in the early stages of a similar Schumann project. Whether or not the lesser-known – and sometimes lesser – Schumann songs will stand up to
this treatment remains to be seen, though, of course, all the composer’s Lieder deserve to be taken as seriously as they are here. Few artists could be more persuasive in them than Simon Keenlyside, who is a Lieder singer in the best tradition, possessed of a firm yet flexible baritone and faultless German. His shading of words and sense of line could hardly be bettered, but there are moments when the voice sounds tired.
Not many of the songs here are top-drawer Schumann, but the programming by poet is both satisfying and logical. Five writers are featured. The finest and best-known group, the set of 12 poems by Justinus Kerner, also inspires the most searching performances: Keenlyside captures the long melodic sweep of ‘Stille Tränen’ while singing with restraint, and brings out all the bareness of ‘Alte Laute’. In ‘Der Page’, a Geibel setting, he makes the most of the unusual speech-song. The songs
from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship evoke a torment tinged with madness. Johnson is on his best form, pointing up every emotion in the piano parts. John Allison