Schumann, Liszt

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COMPOSERS: Liszt,Schumann
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Dichterliebe
PERFORMER: Barbara Bonney (soprano); Antonio Pappano (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 470 289-2
Though she’s not the first female singer to record Dichterliebe (Lotte Lehmann did so as long ago as 1942), a glance at the catalogue shows how unusual even now is Barbara Bonney’s venturing upon this traditionally male vocal territory. There is, of course, no reason why it shouldn’t be done, and this artist certainly possesses the perceptive intelligence to explore its rich diversity of meaning. Some of her interpretative choices are nevertheless arguable: her downbeat view of ‘Ich grolle nicht’ surely goes against the music’s grain.

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Despite her charming vocal manners, fluency, and undoubted commitment to words as well as notes, a wider problem exists in a lack of range of colour in the voice itself, which can – particularly in the higher register – sound limited. This is more noticeable in the selection from Liszt, whose songs tend to be less introverted, more overtly expressive, than the bulk of Schumann’s soul-searching cycle. While his keyboard skills are impeccable, Antonio Pappano, too, fails to deliver the grand pianistic sweep that almost all of the Liszt items require at some point or other. The result is that his playing sounds careful, distanced and even impersonal. George Hall