double play

Schumann: Dichterliebe; Liederkreis; Heine Songs Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone), Imogen Cooper (piano) (Philips 446 086-2)

If ever a voice looked you straight in the eye, this one does. It's a voice you can trust. The timbre alone is reassuring: fresh, eager, wide-open yet discreet (this has to be the sweetest mezza voce in the business) - born to suggest youth, yearning, and love unrequited. Wolfgang Holzmair wears his considerable artistry lightly. Whatever it is that happens in the moment of performance, between the expression and the production of the sound, remains properly concealed from us. Holzmair will clarify, illuminate a song, lifting, highlighting a word or phrase of text without ever seeming to do so. But it's the old story - if the performer feels it, you'll hear it.

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.

EDWARD SECKERSON

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.

STEPHEN JOHNSON

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable