Duet: Lucy Crowe & William Berger
In the latest of his programmes for Delphian, Iain Burnside has looked to mid-19th-century Germany for a recital of (mostly) duets by Schumann, Mendelssohn and Cornelius. The disc is an invitation to enter a Biedermeier drawing room, where middle-class families would gather for evenings around the piano. Vocal duets were a popular part of the entertainment – nothing too difficult or challenging, comfortably melodious songs preferred.
Mendelssohn’s Six Duets, Op 63, are typical of the territory. The early-Romantic style blends appealing melodies with largely unadventurous harmonies, the two voices moving in harmonious tenths or gently overlapping with answering phrases. If the gemütlich atmosphere starts to pall, the duets by Cornelius, dating from slightly later in the 1860s, venture a bit further. ‘Frühling im Sommer’, a solo for Lucy Crowe’s delectable soprano, enters a more imaginative realm, conjured by delicately suggestive chords in the accompaniment. Schumann’s voice also speaks with its own personal accent in ‘Familien-Gemälde’, where Burnside is eloquent in the characteristically extended piano postlude.
The prime pleasure of the disc overall is Crowe’s silvery beauty of tone in the many songs where she takes the dominant, top line. William Berger might feel hard done by having to spend so much of his time shadowing his soprano in the lower half of his voice. When he does get a solo opportunity, as in Mendelssohn’s ‘Altdeutsches Frühlingslied’, his soft-grained baritone is nicely matched. Do not expect to be surprised or gripped. In the right relaxed mood, though, Delphian’s bouquet of duets could be just what is required.