Schumann: Der Rose Pilgerfahrt

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Carus
WORKS: Der Rose Pilgerfahrt, Op. 112
PERFORMER: Anna Lucia Richter (soprano), Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Michael Dahmen (bass); South German Chamber Choir/Gerhard Jenemann; Michael Gees (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 83.450

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The Rose’s Pilgrimage is the last composed of Schumann’s under-rated choral works, such as Scenes from Faust and particularly Paradise and the Peri, which it closely resembles – no surprise, since a performance inspired Schumann’s librettist, the lawyer-poet Moritz Horn.

Rose has a similar other-worldly theme, but abandons Peri’s Oriental exoticism for a more sentimental story based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale. A rose, eager for human love, becomes a girl, carrying a rose as pledge of happiness.

She experiences love’s pain and compassion, but marries and, giving birth, chooses death at the peak of happiness, passing the rose on to her child. Schumann added an ending in which the Rose rises to Heaven.

It’s already had some excellent recordings, notably by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (EMI), Gustav Kuhn (Chandos), Christoph Spering (Opus III – original instruments) and also Marcus Creed (Harmonia Mundi). However, the first three record Schumann’s later orchestral version; the original was for piano accompaniment, which he thought worked at least as well.

Certainly the more open textures, without orchestral underpinning, throw the emphasis strongly on his graceful vocal lines, bringing us closer to his Lieder, where Christoph Prégardien and the other soloists, including distinguished accompanist Michael Gees, show they’re expressively at home.

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The necessarily smaller, tighter chorus also benefits, as the great central Forest Chorus here demonstrates. Creed also records the piano version; his soloists are slightly more operatic, but between these two fine performances there’s little to choose. Michael Scott Rohan