Wide-ranging potpourri of well-performed Schumann Lieder
Barbara Miller | Bellevue, WA United States | 12/29/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In recording their four-disc set of Schumann songs, Peter Schreier and Norman Shetler chose to group the songs by poet, rather than strictly by opus number, with the result that Opus 25, "Myrten", for instance, is spread over several of the discs. Volume III's subtitle describes itself as songs to texts by Ruckert, Goethe and Hans Christian Andersen, but a number of the songs are by other poets, making this perhaps the least unified of the four volumes. But it does include some of Schumann's most popular songs ("Der Nussbaum" and "Widmung") and spans an impressive range of complexity, from the children's songs "Marienwuermchen" and "Fruehlingsgruss", to the arialike "Fluegel, Fluegel" and "Meine Toene still und heiter." Gerald Felber's essay on "Peter Schreier as a Lieder singer", which takes the place in the liner of notes on the songs themselves, states that "Schreier's exemplary lieder interpretations rest on a slender voice with impeccable intonation and lack of vibrato..." While there is some truth in this characterization, his voice in these performances sounds fuller and richer to me than this statement would imply. There is adequate presence in his tone to carry the line and to color even the most soaring musical phrases, while the intimacy of his instrument allows him to express subtle emotion without sounding mannered. As a result, his interpretation of any given Lied is always worth hearing when one is studying it or comparing performances.If you are considering buying this CD as an introduction to Robert Schumann's songs, it might not be the best place to start. While the performances are magnificent, listeners who do not read German will be at a disadvantage, since only German texts are included for the songs. Much of the more lyrical portion of this repertoire is duplicated with comparable artistry by Elly Ameling and Jorg Demus on their Deutsche Harmonia Mundi recording of Schubert and Schumann songs, which does include English translations, and, since it sells for a lower price and includes some wonderful Schubert songs in addition to the Schumann, is probably a better bargain overall. Nevertheless, there is a significant contrast between the two discs in that Ameling's voice (recorded in 1965 and 1967) sounds more youthful and lyrical, and Jorg Demus's Hammerflugel accompaniment much thinner, than the full-bodied sound of Schreier in his prime (1972-3), supported by Shetler on a modern piano. Both Ameling and Schreier achieve a satisfyingly soaring tone in the climactic phrases of "Mein schoener Stern", but Ameling and Demus wisely do not attempt the more dramatic "Der Spielman" and "Fluegel, Fluegel", which are particular gems of the Schreier and Shetler disc."