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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Liederkreis, op. 39 [27:30]
Frauenliebe und Leben, op. 42 [24:29]
Alban BERG (1885-1935)
Sieben frühe Lieder (Seven Early Songs) [16:45]
Dorothea Röschmann (soprano)
Mitsuko Uchida (piano)
rec. live, 2 and 5 May 2015, Wigmore Hall, London
DECCA 4788439 [68:41]

I was so taken by Dorothea Röschmann's Portraits album (review), which featured, amongst others, some of Schumann's songs portraying women, that I was keen to hear this latest collaboration with Dame Mitsuko Uchida in Schumann's two most celebrated song cycles with the Berg "Seven Early Songs" as a bonus. Dame Mitsuko is herself a Schumann expert so this partnership augured well - and I was not disappointed.

We'll take for granted the lovely, limpid, not-too-close sound provided by Decca. The singing is exquisite; Röschmann has a silvery, soaring soprano in the Lucia Popp/Margaret Price category, light, bright, pure and shimmering with easy top notes and real intensity without a hint of wobble or scratch. Her diction is ideal and she sings with real passion. Perhaps the most beautiful thing here is her rendering of "Mondnacht", where the delicacy of Uchida's pianism matches Röschmann's poise. Hear, too, the skill with which Röschmann manages the tricky intervals and sustains perfect intonation in "Auf einer Berg".

Uchida is, as you might expect, a model of restraint, reticence and refinement, hardly ever playing above a mezzo forte but rising to the rapture of passages such as the lovely postlude to "Frühlingsnacht". Some might wish for a more histrionic accompaniment but I find that her style suits perfectly both the singer's vocal layout and the mood of the songs, especially the tenderness of "Frauenliebe und Leben", which is given an account to match the best predecessors, even if it does not shake my first allegiance to a young Janet Baker.

The haunting Berg songs are creamily sung and make an apt interlude between the two Schumann cycles. They are not among my personal favourite songs in that I find them a little self-conscious and saccharine but I cannot imagine any aficionado being disappointed by such musically flawless singing and playing.

Ralph Moore


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