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Camilla Tilling, Christian Gerhaher, Gerold Huber: Schumann – Myrthen (24/96 FLAC)

Camilla Tilling, Christian Gerhaher, Gerold Huber: Schumann - Myrthen (24/96 FLAC)
Camilla Tilling, Christian Gerhaher, Gerold Huber: Schumann – Myrthen (24/96 FLAC)

Composer: Robert Schumann
Performer: Camilla Tilling, Christian Gerhaher, Gerold Huber
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (tracks)
Label: Sony
Size: 844 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Myrthen, Op. 25
01. No. 1, Widmung
02. No. 2, Freisinn
03. No. 3, Der Nussbaum
04. No. 4, Jemand
05. No. 5, Aus dem Schenkenbuch im Divan I – Sitz’ ich allein
06. No. 6, Aus dem Schenkenbuch im Divan II – Setze mir nicht, du Grobian
07. No. 7, Die Lotosblume
08. No. 8, Talismane
09. No. 9, Lied der Suleika
10. No. 10, Die Hochländer-Witwe
11. No. 11, Lied der Braut I – Mutter, Mutter, glaube nicht
12. No. 12, Lied der Braut II – Lass mich ihm an Busen hangen
13. No. 13, Hochländers Abschied
14. No. 14, Hochländisches Wiegenlied
15. No. 15, Aus den hebräischen Gesängen
16. No. 16, Räthsel
17. No. 17, Venetianisches Lied I – Leis’ rudern hier, mein Gondolier
18. No. 18, Venetianisches Lied II – Wenn durch die Piazzetta
19. No. 19, Hauptmanns Weib
20. No. 20, Weit, weit!
21. No. 21, Was will die einsame Träne
22. No. 22, Niemand
23. No. 23, Im Westen
24. No. 24, Du bist wie eine Blume
25. No. 25, Aus den östlichen Rosen
26. No. 26, Zum Schluss

Camilla Tilling (soprano)
Christian Gerhaher (baritone)
Gerold Huber (piano)

Magnificent Schumann lieder

Christian Gerhaher has shown himself particularly good at Schumann in previous discs—his “Frage” won the Gramophone award in 2019 for the best solo vocal recital; as fine as that was, this one is even better. I’m guessing it’ll be the winner in the autumn of 2020. Superb singing; go for it!

With Myrthen, baritone Christian Gerhaher opens Chapter 2 of his life project: a complete recording of the lieder of Robert Schumann. Since Dietrich Fischer-Dieskaus epoch-making recording of the 1970s, no singer has devoted himself more thoroughly to the lied output of Robert Schumann than Christian Gerhaher. Lauded as the greatest lied singer of our time, he launched his complete recording of Schumanns lieder with the album Frage, released in autumn 2018. It marks the fulfilment of a long-cherished dream and, he emphasises, probably the most important project of my life. The Neue Zurcher Zeitung spoke of consummate vocal artistry. Gerhaher has opened a new door in lied interpretation. The Guardian named it one of the years best new classical releases. As always, Gerhaher is accompanied by the equally brilliant pianist Gerold Huber. Most of the lieder he will sing himself, but for the other parts, duets and ensembles he has invited singers from his intimate circle of friends who number among the best in their vocal category, including Camilla Tilling, Julia Kleiter, Sibylla Rubens, Wiebke Lehmkuhl and Martin Mitterrutzner. The complete project will encompass ten albums. Besides Sony Classical, he has managed to gain two of his longstanding partners as co-producers in this lavish undertaking: Bavarian Radio and the Heidelberg Spring Festivals International Song Centre, whose goal is to make artists, concert organizers and audiences alive to the relevance of art song today. Both partners will lend media support to the project. In the second instalment Gerhaher, Hubert and the Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling will devote themselves to the song cycle Myrthen (Myrtles). It was composed in 1840, Schumanns year of song, when most of his works for voice and piano originated. Conceived as a wedding present for his fiancee Clara Wieck, Myrthen contains settings of words by nine different poets. As Gerhaher stresses in his notes for the recording, the poems are tightly interrelated in their contents. The sequence Schumann selected creates not just a picture-book, Gerhaher writes, but an anticipatory narrative of the path longed for and awaited by two lovers, producing one of the loveliest presents ever bestowed by a loving heart upon another.

A somewhat unequal partnership and short timing, but overall a success

The acclaimed German baritone Christian Gerhaher has reached the peak of his artistry in Lieder, but I had my doubts approaching this new release. The 26 songs collected under the title Myrthen (Myrtle) include a handful of Schumann’s best-known Lieder, such as “Widmung” and “Der Nussbaum,” both sung here not by Gerhaher but by Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling. To my knowledge her reputation rests upon her opera performances, not Lieder. Here she sings 12 songs, leaving Gerhaher around half an hour in the remaining 14—short shrift in his highly publicized survey of Schumann’s complete Lieder. What would it have cost him to fill the program out to a respectable length for a CD?
The division of labor leaves Tilling with other prominent songs (“Die Lotosblume,” “Lied der Suleika”), and in fairness, because some songs clearly denote a female narrator, the cycle is often divided along gender lines. This practice runs the risk of unequal partners, as is the case with Diana Damrau, who is an international star and far surpasses baritone Ivan Paley in their 2018 account (Profil). On the bright side, Tilling released a Schubert song recital in 2012, so she knows the genre well, and she has a bright timbre reminiscent in its sparkle of Elly Ameling. As with Ameling, much depends on a listener’s liking for Tilling’s voice, since her interpretations are not very memorable. Two minutes spent with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in “Der Nussbaum,” one of her signature encores, places Tilling a few rungs lower in artistry.
The comparison with Gerhaher isn’t disastrous, because Myrthen, a wedding present from Robert to Clara, is populated with short, tuneful, generally simple songs. Love and buoyant emotions predominate. Even with a lesser challenge, however, Gerhaher could hardly be more riveting—he faced a similar challenge with Brahms’s Die schöne Magelone in 2017, and in both cases we hear artistry that doesn’t draw attention to itself, allowing the feeling of each song to emerge, sometimes with the directness of a folk song.
Yet it is a shame that Schumann assigned the inward and more sophisticated songs to the female side of the partnership, along with the most touching tenderness. Things were more equal when Damrau and Jonas Kaufmann recorded Wolf’s Italian Songbook (Erato), where their artistry was challenged an order of magnitude more than what Myrthen demands. It’s probably best to listen to this release as a pleasing romantic dialogue, appreciating Gerhaher at his best in a few numbers like the poignancy of No. 15 “Aus den hebräischen Gesängen,” a miniature masterpiece. He gets a famous Lied in No. 24, “Du bist wie eine Blume,” done beautifully.
If it doesn’t sound too silly, you could compile a hybrid performance by taking Damrau from her recording and Gerhaher from this one. That would be more satisfying than either recording taken separately. Beyond such an alternative, Tilling and Gerhaher offer the better of the two choices. Gerold Huber’s accompaniments are sensitive and skillful, if not eye-opening, and the recorded sound is excellent.

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