These two song cycles were written in 1840, that wonderfully productive year in which Schumann was expressing his love for Clara Wieck in every way he could. Based on texts by Heine, they are love songs – youthful and ardent, rapturous and personal, about love frustrated and fulfilled, elated and despairing, sentimental and self-mocking.
For most of us the standard for these songs was set decades ago by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, whose voice, diction, and subtlety of interpretation have been unmatched. Now comes one of his students, the young German baritone Matthias Goerne, who first received international attention when Graham Johnson chose him to sing for one of the volumes in the Hyperion Schubert lieder series. That recording was very well-received, and this one will be too. Goerne has a big and beautiful voice, well-trained, flexible and even throughout its considerable range, and he is a thoughtful interpreter. He sings more naturally and with less artificiality of accenting than Fischer-Dieskau, though he does not yet display F-D's ability to make each individual word and phrase emotionally and musically meaningful in the context of the whole song.
The piano plays an important part in the total effect of Schumann lieder, and while Ashkenazy is sometimes a little over-bearing, his accompaniment is skillful and effective. The sound is excellent, and Goerne's performance is among the very best we have had in recent years.
Copyright © 1999, Alexander J. Morin