PERFORMER: Olaf Bär (baritone)Helmut Deutsch (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56199 2
To feed a growing appetite for balladry, whetted by rediscovered works in that genre by Schubert and Loewe, Olaf Bär turns to the Romances and Ballads of Schumann. He begins by peeping into the almost uncut pages of the Op. 30 poems by Geibel: rarely performed miniatures of romance and chivalry in which the famous Magic Horn of German folklore wakes Bär’s gentle baritone to taut rhythms and kicking consonants.
The Six Poems from the Songbook of a Painter, scarcely better known, do lack the melodic inspiration of Schumann’s finest songs. Both composer and performer here seem locked in by the metrical jogtrot of weak German verse, though Bär does capture the tender and buoyant mood of songs composed just as Schumann was about to marry Clara.
The Romances and Ballads of Opp. 45, 49 and 53 are justifiably more frequently performed: the resonant images of Eichendorff and Heine draw keener responses from Schumann and bright detail from the observant fingers of accompanist Helmut Deutsch. The ‘Treasure-Seeker’ digs a litle too deep in Bär’s register for comfort, though his thoughtfully dramatised longer ballads (including Heine’s version of Belshazzar’s Feast) compel attention more than the Hans Andersen settings which follow, in which Bär’s voice could focus more sharply on the lurking nightmares within these miniatures. Hilary Finch