Dorothea Röschmann: Portraits
Here is a portrait gallery of women in 19th-century German song, comprising two collections depicting Mignon (by Schubert and Wolf) and one each devoted to Gretchen and Mary Stuart. The choices may seem to go against the grain, as Dorothea Röschmann does not sound naturally cast as either of Goethe’s young characters. Her soprano has taken on a darker sound of late, which she compounds with a tendency to accentuate guttural consonants – a rather self-conscious mannerism, which takes her further from an easily flowing, lyrical style. It is worth persevering, though, because Röschmann is highly skilled in Lieder and her partnership with Malcolm Martineau has delivered a recital that gets beneath the music’s skin.
In four of Schubert’s Mignon settings she sings with the intensity of utterance that defines her as a Lieder interpreter. As Gretchen, she sounds improbably imperious as she recounts the story of ‘Der König in Thule’, though she makes the listener hang on every word. ‘Gretchens Bitte’, D564, is sung in the completed version by Britten, as it is in Hyperion’s Schubert Edition. Röschmann’s more mature accents suit Schumann’s five short Mary Stuart songs well. There is an interlude for four popular songs by Strauss (how do these fit the ‘Portraits’ theme?) where the lack of Straussian bloom to the voice is compensated by much high-pressure emotion. ‘Befreit’, sensitively accompanied by Martineau, is properly moving. Then she returns to Mignon in Wolf’s four settings, recalling Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in the intensity she brings to songs. This disc will not appeal to everybody but it is a recital to which I shall return.