Classical CD Reviews
ROBERT SCHUMANN: Liederkreis, Op. 39; Maria Stuart, Op. 135; Ruckert Lieder; 6 Lieder from Myrthen, Op. 25 – Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano/ Anthony Spiri, piano – Harmonia mundi
Published on February 5, 2010
ROBERT SCHUMANN: Liederkreis, Op. 39; Maria Stuart, Op. 135; Ruckert Lieder; 6 Lieder from Myrthen, Op. 25 – Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano/ Anthony Spiri, piano – Harmonia mundi 902031, 62:56 ****:
I was hoping that Fink would get around to recording Schumann’s greatest cycle, the Op. 39 Liederkreis before too long, and here it is. This melancholy and strangely disparate poetry would seem a perfect match for Fink’s hot-blooded mezzo, and so the contrast does indeed prove complimentary. Listening to her obvious recent rival (albeit of a higher vocal range generally) Kate Royal on Hyperion, I do think that Royal manages a little more introspection and independence in her interpretation; each item becomes a miniature tone poem for her, vaguely connected by emotive strands found in the tenor of the music, whereas Fink approaches the whole with more of a same-cloth feeling. This is a quibble though, as Fink’s generally robust and gripping vocal mannerisms are about as pleasing to the ear as anything heard today.
I am a little disappointed in the six selections from Myrthen because it probably means she won’t be giving us all 26 anytime soon. These works are not recorded in toto too often, but that doesn’t stop my own dissatisfaction with the choice, as she sings them brilliantly. The Ruckert songs are a collection of excised material from opuses 25, 27, 37, 79, 83, and 101 featuring this man’s poems, and are sung with sensitivity and grace–something Schumann though very important in this particular poet as he felt the man left little to compose, so complete was his expression.
But the best thing on this disc is Fink’s Romanesque vision of the poems supposedly written by Mary, Queen of Scots. These vocal declamations are penetratingly stark and direct in their simple monochromatic expression, allowing the piano no room for anything but the barest of partnership (which Anthony Spiri admirably gives) and the voice an almost motionless quality that can be shattering in its impact. Would that Schumann had lived long enough to continue his experiments down this road.
The sound is stunning and the texts, translations, and excellent notes all testify to another sterling HM effort.
– Steven Ritter