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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Schumann, Frage, Christian Gerhaher, Gerold Huber

Some music you need to make a point of hearing and regularly if ever you are to grow to love it. If all is well the love comes and does not leave you for the rest of your life. Such has been  the case with me for the song arts of classic lieder. There was some point in my very early adulthood where I knew I needed to understand lieder and so I bought a recording of some wonderful Schubert examples. Wonderful or not I had no idea at that point.The first time through I felt out of my usual swim of things. With later listens it took hold and I have been revisiting the Schubertian wonderlands regularly ever since. Within the orbit of such forced marches into unknown territory I came upon Schumann's own lieder and found it as worthy very nearly as the Schubert set of opuses. Yet I have not systematically addressed that body of works.

But now I have a perfect chance to latch onto that. Baritone king Christian Gerhaher has embarked on a complete cycle of Schumann lieder and gives us a first volume in his new recording Frage  (SONY Classics 19075889192). It is a good one. He and piano accompanist Gerold Huber embark on a series of readings that seem as poetic and convincing as any we might hear, and of course that is a very big thing.

The program contains five very beautiful short lieder cycles and one song that stands alone. It includes the "6 Gesange" op. 107, the "Romanzen und Balladen" op. 49, "Warnung" op. 119/2, "3 Gesang" op. 83,  "12 Gedichte" op. 35,  and finally "4 Gesange" op. 142. The choice is a nice one as early and later rub shoulders and we experience a wide variety of introspective and dramatic moods. Schumann of course left it all for us to hear and linger within. We benefit from the continual shifting that the mixing of opuses provide. The performances make believers I hope of us all, every song. That is what I take away from it happily.

Gerhaher rivals Fischer-Dieskau for his beautifully burnished tone, his eloquent articulation and his very musically and dramatically astute interpretations. As the voice is like a fingerprint there is a happy individual quality to his singing and it is nothing if not masterful in all ways. Huber rivals Gerald Moore for sensitive accompaniment presence. Taken all-in-all or taken song-by-song Frage resounds as a titanic excursion into Schumann at his finest. I cannot wait for the next volume. Super-enthusiastic ratings I happily give this one. Bravo! Molto bravo!

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