Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

ELISABETH SCHUMANN Lieder Recordings 1930-1938


Brahms, Schumann & Mendelssohn


NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111099 – 1 CD – 67.50 minutes


Elizabeth Schumann was a supreme artist in the performance song and this anthology of 31 songs brings together all her pre-war recordings of Lieder by Brahms, Schubert and Mendelssohn, and include several tracks that were never published on 78 rpm discs.


The accompanying notes quote extensively from her book German Song (ghosted for her by Leo Rosenek, who is also her pianist for much of this CD) and this slim volume gives a unique insight on her approach to the works of these composers and her approach to Lieder singing in general.


But the proof is of course in the listening, and to add one further quotation from her book it is the “skill in welding a musical phrase and perfect declamation into a melodious unity” that is demonstrated to perfection here.


Each song is performed with loving attention to detail, it is not only the singer's phrasing but also the way in which she shades and colours her voice to reflect the sentiments expressed in the poem that leave a lasting impression and make her recordings instantly recognisable.


She chose a picture of the Lorelei Rocks on the Rhine as a cover illustration for her book, and I suspect Schumann's Loreley Op53 No2 (based on the poem by August Wilhelmine Lorenz) was one of her favourites – and the sweetness of her siren's song would certainly lead even the strongest willed astray.


There is also the same composer's O ihr Herren where she gently chides the great and wealthy lords who have no need in their beautiful gardens for even a single nightingale, and her previously unpublished recording of Brahms' An eine Aolsharfe in which she summons up the magic and sweet sounding sorrow of an Aeolian harp. Each listener will no doubts find their own preferences, there is wealth enough here to satisfy every mood.


All the recordings were made in London, and also feature three wonderful pianists: Leo Rosenek, George Reeves and Gerald Moore; just a few tracks have orchestral accompaniment - Brahms' well known Cradlesong in both orchestral and piano versions. .


The re-mastering for CD has been well done, providing a good clean sound but retaining something of the period tone of recordings of that era. One would not expect to find texts supplied with a budget recording, but it would have been nice to find an English translation of the titles of the songs for those who are not Lieder specialists.


Serena Fenwick