The Songs of Robert Schumann

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COMPOSERS: R Schumann
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Liederkreis, Op. 39; Zwei Balladen für Deklamation, Op. 122; Drei Gedichte nach Emanuel Geibel, Op. 29; Drei Duette, Op. 43 etc
PERFORMER: Kate Royal (soprano); Felicity Lott, Lydia Teuscher (soprano), Ann Murray, Daniela Lehner (mezzo-soprano), Stephan Loges (baritone), Christoph Bantzer (reciter), Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDJ 33110

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It had to be only a matter of time before the starry soprano Kate Royal would be recruited to Graham Johnson’s admirable and continuing Schumann Song series. She’s been allotted the Op. 39 Liederkreis, and seems to be feeling her way with the work, not yet quite ready to do justice to herself or to the cycle.

Articulation and inflection are a little laboured: Royal doesn’t instinctively sense how the words give voice to the energy and direction of the melodic line. And, with Graham Johnson’s accompanying uncharacteristically lacklustre here, there’s a lack of variegated colour and emotional response in these high-Romantic vignettes of the poet Eichendorff.

For a soprano Liederkreis, I’d prefer both Margaret Price (Hyperion, 1991) and Soile Isokoski (Finlandia, 1993). But the cycle really does lie more happily in the baritone voice.

Wolfgang Holzmair and Imogen Cooper offer a truly eloquent performance on a revelatory all-Eichendorff disc which is deleted but well worth hunting for.Rarities fill the rest of this tenth Schumann Hyperion volume.

Felicity Lott and Ann Murray sing no fewer than eight duets; and the pair that Johnson seems to be grooming as their successors, Lydia Teuscher and Daniela Lehner, contribute three delightful Geibel settings.

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There are curiosities aplenty: three ballads for declamation, finely recited by Christoph Bantzer; a gypsy octet, complete with tambourine and triangle; and, most touchingly of all, Schumann’s setting of his own poem to accompany the gift of a piano to his beloved Clara. Hilary Finch