Schumann: Liederkreis, Op. 39; Sieben Gedichte, Op. 90; Lieder, Op. 40 (excerpts); Lieder und Gesänge aus Wilhelm Meister, Op. 98a (excerpts); Nachtlied, Op. 96/1

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Liederkreis, Op. 39; Sieben Gedichte, Op. 90; Lieder, Op. 40 (excerpts); Lieder und Gesänge aus Wilhelm Meister, Op. 98a (excerpts); Nachtlied, Op. 96/1
PERFORMER: Robert Holl (baritone)András Schiff (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 436 123-2 DDD
To describe András Schiff as the accompanist on this recording would seem an understatement, for it is his majestic playing that lifts a fine account of the Liederkreis, Op. 39, and other songs and suffuses it with greatness.

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From the delightfully simple ‘Lied eines Schmiedes’ (Song of the Smith), the first of the Seven Lieder, Op. 90, with which the recital starts, and ‘Der Soldat’, with its marching rhythm (the muffled drum of the first line ominously there in the piano part) to the shimmering ‘Mondnacht’ and tortured ‘Auf einer Burg’, his performance is by turns buoyant and exhilarating, then ethereal and introspective, yet always subtle and immaculately detailed.

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But though Schiff’s compelling playing is the disc’s chief glory, it in no way upstages Robert Holl’s excellent performance. His perfectly modulated baritone is striking and robust but flexible enough to cope with the darker, more meditative passages when he uses an extraordinarily beautiful half-voice that is gentle and affecting, yet strangely menacing. His capacity to project the story of a song is also impeccable: in the heart-rending ‘Muttertraum’, based on a poem by Hans Christian Andersen, his voice darkens and becomes harsher almost imperceptibly as the scene changes from a mother doting on her angelic child to the predatory raven at the window that is marking the baby as its prey.