Schumann: Myrthen, Op. 25; Sechs Gedichte und Requiem, Op. 90

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Myrthen, Op. 25; Sechs Gedichte und Requiem, Op. 90
PERFORMER: Andrea Lauren Brown (soprano), Thomas E Bauer (baritone), Uta Hielscher (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557079

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Schumann wrote his song-cycle Myrthen (myrtles are associated with weddings in Germany) as a bridal gift to his wife Clara Wieck in his miraculous so-called ‘year of song’ (1840), when he produced more than half his output in the genre. Containing several well-known items, it’s rarely performed as a whole, whether sung by one performer (as in French contralto Nathalie Stutzman’s fine recording) or, as here, by two. They are very different artists vocally and their approaches form a strong contrast.
 
The German baritone Thomas E Bauer has a meaty, sizable voice and brings real engagement to the text. The American soprano Andrea Lauren Brown has a much slighter instrument with little richness of colour or substance; she doesn’t seem a natural for the Romantic repertoire, even in this domestic genre. An oddly matched duo, their performance’s temperature and vitality swings up or down depending on who is singing a particular item. In ‘Der Nussbaum’, for instance, Brown’s tone is childish, her delivery short-breathed. An occasional song (‘Die Hochländer-Witwe’) is not an easy listen, though there’s an expressive intent in others (‘Lieder der Braut aus dem Liebesfrühling’ No. 1) if at times good intentions are only partially realised (‘Mein Herz ist schwer’). 
 
Bauer is far more consistent, and fortunately he takes on all of the second set of songs on the recording, the late and even more unusual song cycle of 1850, Sechs Gedichte und Requiem, Op. 90. He makesa great success of them.Their pianist, Uta Hielscher, is a proficient performer, though the recording makes her instrument sound a touch metallic in places. George Hall