Clara Schumann, Schumann: Spanisches Liederspiel; Lieder, Op. 40; Spanische Liebeslieder

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COMPOSERS: Clara Schumann,Schumann
LABELS: Hyperion Schumann Edition
WORKS: Spanisches Liederspiel; Lieder, Op. 40; Spanische Liebeslieder
PERFORMER: Geraldine McGreevy (soprano), Stella Doufexis (mezzo-soprano), Adrian Thompson (tenor), Stephan Loges (baritone), Graham Johnson, Stephen Hough (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDJ 33106
Travel-writing and world music were big in the mid-19th century, too; though Robert Schumann, unlike his exhaustingly itinerant wife, Clara, preferred armchair travelling. Within Graham Johnson’s typically teeming commentaries to this latest Hyperion volume, ‘Schumann and the Spanish style’, he relates a moving anecdote about the composer’s perusal of atlases while in the Endenich asylum…

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Spain was, for the Romantic muse, another and still more exotic ‘Land wo die Orangen glüh’n’. And when Emanuel Geibel’s new translations of Spanish verse came Schumann’s way, he was immediately fired to write two Spanish song cycles: the Liederspiel – four singers in a quasi-operatic cast – and the Liebeslieder – four voices, four hands – inspiration for Brahms’s eponymous waltzes. A typical Hyperion cast forms an irresistible palette of voices for both these cycles: in the Liederspiel, Geraldine McGreevy and Stella Doufexis intertwine as roses in ‘Erste Begegnung’, while Adrian Thompson and Stephan Loges duet in a lullaby ‘Intermezzo’. And they play mixed doubles in the pastiche Bolero, ‘Es ist verraten’.

The Spanische Liebeslieder also inspired the genesis of Johnson’s Songmakers’ Almanac. Here, the voices dance gracefully in varied permutations; though the pièce de resistance is Loges’s solo, ‘Flutenreicher Ebro’, its melody effortlessly cruising the cross-currents of a river expertly navigated by Johnson and, delightfully, Stephen Hough.

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In between come Loges’s minutely perceptive performances of Schumann’s Hans Christian Andersen settings, and Clara Schumann’s Sechs Lieder aus ‘Jucunde’, sung radiantly by McGreevy. Unmitigated pleasure, from start to finish. Hilary Finch