Schumann: Dichterliebe; Liederkreis; Heine Songs Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone), Imogen Cooper (piano) (Philips 446 086-2)
Friday 28 July 1995
It is an exceptionally light, bantamweight baritone, which makes for an affecting vulnerablity in some of these songs, while naturally intensifying their confidentiality. But inevitably there are resonances that elude him and it (most particularly in the lower quarter of the voice). Then again, such is the skill of Schumann's writing - voice and keyboard as one, not so much a shared, more a unified experience - that Imogen Cooper's hands repeatedly refresh the parts Holzmair's voice cannot reach.
Dichterliebe is outstanding. These songs might have been custom-made for this voice, this singer. It's there right from the start, this special atmosphere, it's there in the luminosity with which Cooper announces "the glorious month of May". It's there in the fourth song "Wenn ich in deine Augen seh", where Holzmair can hardly bring himself to utter the words "I love you" (his inflection here is but a whisper in his lover's ear). And after the ecstasy, the agony, made public with the great "Ich grolle nicht", its climax cutting to the quick in a defiant, almost tenorial high A.
"Hor' ich das Liedchen klingen" is exquisite, the tears that "dissolve the excess of my grief" falling like a gentle rain in both voice and keyboard; and there's that marvellous song "Ich hab' im Traum geweinet" ("I wept in my dream"), which might almost be unaccompanied but for the piano's stark reminders that the dreamer is now awake and the heartache all too real.
Cooper has the last word - one of those lingering Schumann postludes where grief falls away with the embellishments leaving only reconciliation and hope.
Wolfgang Holzmair and Imogen Cooper's Wigmore Hall Lieder recitals were one of my critical highlights of 1994. So this just had to be wonderful - hadn't it? In fact, there was more than a twinge of disappointment at the end of the Dichterliebe cycle, and that's the strongest thing on the disc. Perhaps I should have tried to forget Holzmair in the flesh - after all, there's a big difference between the intimacy of a live song recital and the relative impersonality of a CD, and to be a success in both requires an equally big change of attitude. But here Holzmair too often feels expressively reined-in.
There are moments where he stops singing to the microphone and seems to address the listener personally, as at "Yet when you say 'I love you' " in "Wenn ich in deine Augen seh" from Dichterliebe - but these are much fewer and further between than I expected. Of course, it's better not to treat the famous "Ich grolle nicht" as a sustained rant; Holzmair's subtlety is very welcome in more impassioned songs such as this. But you can be too subtle, or too restrained. This song is supposed to represent the seething bitterness of betrayed love - Holzmair sounds as if he's never seethed in his life.
Some of the most poetic moments are actually provided by Imogen Cooper - especially the heartfelt solo epilogue to Dichterliebe, in which the piano seems to pick up the pieces after the emotional wreckage of the songs. It's one of Schumann's finest touches, and he would surely have been delighted by Cooper's balance of intensity and delicacy. There can't be many British pianists who understand this repertoire better. Beyond question, Holzmair's understanding is just as deep, but somehow he just doesn't seem to have put anything like all of it across on this disc. Could do better? I'm afraid so.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 VMAs 2015: Was Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus' awkward acceptance put-down real or staged?
- 2 If you're not already angry about the migrant crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
- 3 Rules on 5p plastic bags likely to lead to arguments at the check-out
- 4 Chaos breaks out in courtroom as father attacks killer of three-year-old daughter
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
X Factor hopeful Mason Noise: 'How is Cheryl Fernandez-Versini in the music business, let alone a judge on the show?'
Trevor Noah, Edinburgh Fringe review: New Daily Show host warms up in inspired style
X Factor 2015: Ratings drop almost 2 million compared to last year's launch show
VMAs 2015: Kanye West runs for president, Nicki Minaj calls out Miley Cyrus and the list of winners in full
VMAs 2015: Taylor Swift and her buddy Kendrick Lamar clean-up at awards - full list of winners
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up