Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Robert Schumann, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Bernhard Klee|
Schumann: Requiem Op. 148, Der Rose Pilgerfahrt Op. 112, Requiem fur Mignon Op. 98b, Mass Op. 147 - Wolfgang Sawallisch, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, Bernhard Klee
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Schumann for Schumann Completists
M. C. Passarella | Lawrenceville, GA | 08/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The EMI Gemini series is more often about convenience and cost savings than about definitive performances of repertoire pieces. Here, we have a case in which the pieces involved, except for "Requiem fur Mignon," are so far outside the standard repertoire that they are difficult to find in any performances, let alone definitive ones. Schumann's "Der Rose Pilgerfahrt" has fared much better on disc than the Mass and Requiem. There are a couple of good recent recordings--one using the original scoring for voices and piano--available. But they are both more expensive, and given the fact that Frubeck de Burgos's performance is a sympathetic one, with first-rate vocal soloists and thoroughly respectable contributions from the chorus and orchestra, I can't see making the extra outlay of capital.
Despite Schumann's literary sophistication, he happened to choose second- or third-rate sources for three of his most ambitious works--"Paradies und die Peri," "Genoveva," and "Der Rose Pilgerfahrt"--resulting in music that is less than top drawer, with the exception of "Paradise und die Peri." As in that work, Schumann in "Rose" used and even advanced his technique of continuous arioso, a way of disposing of the aria-and-recitative arrangement of traditional operas and oratorios. This practice is even more advanced in "Rose," with an added attempt at a continuous flow between individual numbers as well: numbers are linked by held notes, incomplete cadences, and so forth, all of which is interesting to hear the first time around. Despite this forward-looking gesture, however, overall, the piece is a throwback to the fairy world of early Romanticism. There is an obeisance to the Mendelssohn of Midsummer Night's Dream and even to the Weber of Der Freischutz. In fact, one of the male choruses bears a striking resemblance to the hunting chorus from Weber's opera, though nothing in Schumann's work has the energy or spirit of the best of Weber's. Schumann's piece, overall, is a tender, harmless bit of reactionary Romanticism that, for all its charms, fails to make a lasting impression.
At least Schumann was on familiar ground in this exercise in early German Romanticism. In the Mass and Requiem, he was fulfilling what he saw as a duty of the serious composer but without any other compelling motivation that I can hear. The result is two dutiful, mostly forgettable works. Of the two, the Mass seems the more accomplished to me. It has a quiet but restless Kyrie that gives the air of troubled calm. This is followed by a Gloria that seems well wrought to me, even down to the imposing fugal writing. As to the rest, there is a tender Offertorium for soprano, cello solo, and organ that is pure Schumann. Sometimes, it is extracted from the work and presented as a soprano-solo vehicle. The rest of the score is unmemorable. The Hosana and especially the long Credo are four-square and stodgy in Schumann's worst manner. Whereas Schumann could set the words of Eichendorff or Heine with consummate skill, he is entirely baffled by this statement of the Catholic faith.
The Requiem is usually cited for the spooky octave leaps of the Dies Irae. Other than that, the piece leaves even less of an impression than does the Mass. The piece is neither fish nor fowl, falling into the netherworld between the quiet elegy of Faure and the blood-and-thunder apocalypse of Berlioz and Verdi.
After the Requiem, it's refreshing to turn to Schumann's other Requiem, the one for Mignon. This may be Schumann's finest choral work, novel in conception and very successful in execution. Klee's performance is a good one, hampered only by a wobbly Fischer-Dieskau, near the end of his distinguished career. John Eliot Gardiner's performance has the benefit of a finer bass (William Dazeley), the added piquancy of period instruments, as well as the added authenticity of boys' choir, so this is the performance to have, supposing you also want Schumann's "Paradies und die Peri" in a definitive performance.
Some reviewers purport to hear a large difference between the performance of the Mass by Sawallisch and that of the Requiem by Klee; their ears or sensibilities are more finely tuned than mine. Both performances are quite competent and do as much for Schumann as can be done, I think. The digital sound in the Sawallisch and Klee performances is very clean and provides good detail, but it tends to an unnatural brightness. The analog sound in Frubeck's "Rose" is warmer and more rounded, though the recording of the soloists isn't entirely natural; there is a slight halo of reverb around the voices, especially the bass. But this is a small matter. The sound throughout is entirely acceptable. So if you want to complete your collection of Schumann choral music on the cheap, this Gemini set is a reliable way to do so."