Schumann: Dichterliebe; Liederkreis, Op. 39; Romanzen und Balladen III; Belsatzar

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Dichterliebe; Liederkreis, Op. 39; Romanzen und Balladen III; Belsatzar
PERFORMER: Thomas Quasthoff (baritone), Roberto Szidon (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61225 2 DDD
Thomas Quasthoff has been a national prizewinner and recitalist in Germany since the late 1980s. He has an immensely appealing warm timbre coupled with an intense wish to communicate.

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Of the two Schumann song cycles on this disc, Dichterliebe produces the more rounded and consistently good performance. The opening ‘Im wunderschönen Monat Mai’ reveals a resonant, well-shaped line and Quasthoff tapers his sound and delivery throughout the work to suit the texts. ‘Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome’ and ‘Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen’ are most effective.

Thomas Quasthoff has strong interpretative skills and delivers a vivid declamatory performance of the little-heard Belsatzar. He has a worrying tendency to over-expand certain vowel sounds for dramatic effect, which results in some fatal blurring of the pitch.

In Liederkreis, ‘Mondnacht’, ‘Auf einer Burg’ and ‘Zwielicht’ are all casualties. Though splendid renditions of ‘Waldesgespräch’ and ‘Schöne Fremde’ do compensate, the overall impression is one of unfortunate patchiness, and Szidon’s accompaniments tend to err on the heavy side.

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Quasthoff’s is a unique voice with fine ideas behind it. If he develops sturdier diaphragm and breath support and reduces his over-expanded vowels, we will have treats in store with his planned recital discs of Mozart, Schubert and Brahms. Elise McDougall