The tenth volume in the complete Schumann song cycle has been long in coming, but the wait has been splendidly rewarded with maybe the best issue in the entire project so far. The programme's choice is full of mouth watering pieces such as the "Two Ballades for Declamation", Op. 123 and the "Three Geibel Settings", Op. 129 but pride of place must surely go to Liederkreis, Op. 39, which at 26 minutes spans almost a third of the disc's playing time.
This great work has always proved to be somewhat elusive in performance, as some of the songs are more difficult to bring off than others, and there were instances where singer and pianist found themselves in tight situations. For this reason, this cycle has never been popular with the public as with scholars and analysts, but the masterly way in which Kate Royal probes Eichendorff's mysterious and highly charged texts and mingles them with Schumann's memorable creations should win "Liederkreis" many new friends.
The rest of the items on disc are dispatched with brilliant precision and unstinted commitment. Sumptuous sound quality and yet another monumental essay by Graham Johnson complete an absolutely glorious tribute to Schumann's innate genius.
Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech