Clara Schumann, Schumann: Kerner Lieder, Op. 35

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COMPOSERS: Clara Schumann,Schumann
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Kerner Lieder, Op. 35
PERFORMER: Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone); Imogen Cooper (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 462 610-2
Always a rewarding Lieder partnership, Wolfgang Holzmair and Imogen Cooper give one of the most perceptive readings of Schumann’s Kerner Lieder cycle in the catalogue. Holzmair’s slightly reedy, tenorish voice – the baritone’s answer to his fellow-Austrian Julius Patzak – may not possess a specially wide range of colour. But abetted by Cooper’s lucid, sentient playing, he more than compensates with

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his command of line and responsiveness to verbal and musical nuance. With their crucial understanding of Schumannesque rubato, singer and pianist catch to perfection the fragile wistfulness of ‘Erstes Grün’, the Brahmsian nostalgia of ‘Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend’ (ending with a magical, musing pianissimo) and the dreamy ecstasy of ‘Stille Liebe’ and ‘Stille Tränen’; and at the other end of the spectrum, they are ‘light and tender’, as prescribed by the composer, in the potentially hearty ‘Wanderung’. In the numbers from Myrthen, ‘Widmung’ is longer on inwardness than ardour. But Holzmair and Cooper are delightfully conspiratorial in the two Venetian songs, and bring an ideal intimacy and drowsy delicacy to ‘Der Nussbaum’. They vary the mix with a handful of settings by Clara, all charming (if sometimes burdened by over-fussy keyboard-writing), and one or two – the plaintive ‘Sie liebten sich beide’, with its fragmented vocal line, or the reflective ‘Geheimes Flüstern’ – rather more than that. Holzmair and Cooper are touching exponents of these songs, never tempted to overstate their shy lyricism and showing an apparently instinctive rapport that marks all the performances in this memorable recital. Richard Wigmore