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Georg SCHUMANN (1866-1952)
Lieder (1895-96 and 1904-06)
Mary Nelson (soprano)
Mark Ford (piano)
rec. 2013, Music Schools Hall, Harrow School, London
Texts and translations included
STONE RECORDS 5060192780796 [68:33]

The music of Georg Schumann has been making small inroads over the last decade or so, spearheaded by CPO’s exploration of his big orchestral music (review ~ review), though longer ago than that Guild released a disc devoted to his choral music (review). This is pertinent in the context of this new release because two of the musicians, Mark Ford and Mary Nelson, make a reappearance here on Stone’s ambitious release that includes no fewer than seven song cycles. In the Guild disc Mary Nelson shared solo vocal duties with Geraldine McGreevy and Ford directed The Purcell Singers. Clearly the Schumann bug bit hard because seven years later they recorded the cycles presented here.

Schumann’s song cycles date from two concentrated periods, 1895-96 and 1904-06 and all the songs here comes from these periods. He had favourite poets to whom he returned such as Gustav Kastropp and poets whose works form whole cycles; Paul Heyse, author of the Op.35 settings, and Johanna Voigt, three of whose lyrics form the Op.13 set (the ‘Johanna Ambrosius’ set).

The ethos is largely Brahmsian as the second song of the Op.10 cycle shows with great ardour though there are brief Schubertian intimations from time to time and elements that hint at ballad-like Loewe. The expressive temperature of the cycles shifts definably. The five songs that form the Op.11 set are more withdrawn than the Op.10 set, a wistfulness cemented by the piano commentaries though the final song establishes equability via some droll charm; an oddly affirmatory end to a set that is predominantly wistful. He is more than capable of simple, direct settings such as the Wiegenlied that ends the three Op.16 settings, whereas he is also convincing in his more extended contemplative songs, such as form the bulk of Op.35. The probing and exciting Drunten auf der Gassen is one of his best songs, full of drama even in the context of these Mädchenlieder. Indeed, the most notable thing about the Op.35 set is the way in which the temperature moves from muted to rapturous; convincing psychology and successful composition.

The two Op.46 songs are quietly melancholic, the second exhibiting another of Schumann’s gifts, which is for eloquent piano postludes, and the concise Op.48 set reprises those elements of brisk characterisation that mark out the majority of his songs.

Sometimes, rarely, the soprano line can take the singer high, sometimes uncomfortably and ungratefully so, but in the main this is not a consideration. Nelson is a thoughtful interpreter and Ford an imaginative pianist and they have been well recorded. Those on the lookout for harmonically rich late Romantic songs that draw on an axis point around Brahms, Strauss (there are some echoes along the way), Liszt and as far back as Schubert might care to lend an ear to this body of music.

Jonathan Woolf

Vier Lieder, Op.10
Ich habe nur einen Gedanken
Schlehenblüth’ und wilde Rose
Es duftet lind die Frühlingsnacht
Ein grauses Dunkel herrscht in meiner Seele
Funf Lieder, Op.11
Die Welt, sie ist mir viel zu weit
Es schaut ein alter Fliederbaum
Im zitternden Mondlicht
Die Bitte
Ich bin ein grosser Herre!
Drei Lieder von Johanna Ambrosius, Op.13
Für dich
Lieder, Op.16
O könnt’ nur einmal mein müdes Haupt
Lüstern flüstern die Zweige
Mädchenlieder, Op.35
Auf die Nacht in den Spinnstuben
Der Tag wird kühl
Mir träumte von einem Myrtenbaum
Soll ich ihn lieben
Drunten auf der Gassen
Ach, wie so gerne bleib’ ich euch ferne
Zwei Gesänge, Op.46
Das Grab
Deine Hände
Vier Lieder, Op.48
Ich gehe hin
Bitt’res Scheiden
Lass nur einmal mein dich nennen

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