The first release includes the cycles Liederkreis, op.24 and Dichterliebe, op. 48, as well as ìDer arme Peterî from Schumannís Romances and Ballades, op. 53 (no. 3), and the song ìBelsatzarî, op. 57. Bauer has an engaging sound, and his command of the text is unquestionably solid. Working together, Bauer and Hielscher achieve a remarkably fine balance and convincing interpretation of these two major sets of Lieder. As familiar as the music may be, their approach conveys a freshness often found in live performances that is sometimes difficult to capture on a recording.
Bauerís voice is natural for Lieder, and his range of expression is well within the scope of the literature selected for this recording. He is sensitive to the poetry, and brings out critical lines, as occurs with the telling treatment of ìSchˆne Wiege meiner Leiden,î the fifth of Schumannís Liederkreis, op. 24, with the short utterances and pauses that are appropriate to the text. At the same time, he allows some lines to linger just enough to reinforce the meaning. His tone rings, at times, like a warm cello, and this adds to the ambiance of the performance.
Hielscherís accompanying is at once discreet and authoritative. She sets a tone in ìWarte, warter, wilder Schiffmann,î the next song in the Liederkreis, that allows the singer to open the piece with the necessary brilliance. Her playing reflects a sensitivity that is often extolled, but not always heard. It is welcome here, where the accompanist and the vocalist must unite to present the Lieder as a kind of chamber music. At times the piano must be prominent, but not for the extended passages as occurs with some of Brahmsís Lieder. At some points, the accompaniment requires a full sound that must not overpower the singer, and Hielscher is clearly sensitive to such moments in the score. The give-and-take of these performers is entirely appropriate to these songs, and is borne out in the later set, Schumannís Dichterliebe, where the accompaniment has a more involved role in that cycle.
The opening song of the Dichterliebe is particularly effective with its tentative, somewhat hovering sense of rhythm that solidifies once the voice enters. Upon entering, Bauer conveys a musing, dreaming quality, which sets the tone for the cycle. This contrasts their more decisive approach to ìIch grolle nicht,î a turning point in the cycle, where the perspective of the narrator shifts, and this is clear in Bauerís dramatic ñ and wholly musical ñ execution of the final strophe. Such definition is evident in the subsequent song and those that follow, and Hielscher confirms that in her approach to the accompaniment, which is prominent without being intrusive. ìDas ist ein Flˆten und Geigenî has a dance-like quality that suggests in its conclusion the kind of gesture Mahler would use in ìDes Antonius Fischpredigtî and some other points in his Wunderhorn settings. (In fact, the couple has released a recording of Mahlerís Lieder, which merits attention for the effective performances it captures.)
ìHˆrí ich das Liedchen klingenî retreats from this more extroverted style, allowing the ditty in the title to emerge from the lingering tempo they use to approach this song. From the pacing given to this and the remaining pieces in the cycle, it is clear that Bauer and Hielscher worked out their interpretation of this familiar music, and it is a convincing one. Those who want to hear a fine singer matched with an equally sensitive pianist will enjoy their performance of Schumannís Dichterliebe. The title ìDie alten bˆsen Liederî [ìThe old, bad songsî] is hardly appropriate for this fresh and convincing performance of that song and the entire cycle. For those who wish to hear more from these performers the two additional pieces included on this recording, ìDer arme Peterî and ìBelsazar,î are worth hearing in Bauerís interpretation. In these more sustained Lieder, Bauer offers a laudable presentation of the text with his clear diction and sensitivity to both the rhythms of the music and those of the poetry.
In these songs and the others on this CD, the couple demonstrates a masterful approach to Schumannís Lieder, and they should offer some excellent interpretations in the remainder of his repertoire in subsequent volumes of the series. Already the second volume of the series is announced, and it includes selections from Liebesfruhling, op. 37, ìMinnespielî, op. 101, and Lieder aus Wilhelm Meister, Op. 98a. Given the quality of the first release, the next should be worth hearing, along with the rest of this exciting new edition of Schumannís Lieder.
While it is not entirely essential when the focus should be on the fine performance, the liner notes are minimal, with the entire insert typeset on two pages. Since this is well-known repertoire by Schumann, it should not be a problem to find texts elsewhere, either by consulting editions of the music or other CDs. Naxos makes texts and translations available at the following URL: www.naxos.com/libretti/schumannlieder1.htm. This is a small concession that should be no means detract from the fine performance found on this recording.
James L. Zychowicz
image_description=Robert Schumann: Liederkreis, op. 24; Dichterliebe.
product_title=Robert Schumann: Liederkreis, op. 24; Dichterliebe, Op. 48.
Schumann Lieder 1 (series).
product_by=Thomas E. Bauer, baritone; Uta Hielscher, piano.
product_id=Naxos CD 8.557075 [CD]