SCHUMANN; BERG Lieder
Recorded live at the Wigmore Hall earlier this year, this disc marks the first collaboration on record between Dorothea Röschmann and Mitsuko Uchida. Right from the start, we get a sense of the quality in store – Röschmann’s interpretative imagination, Uchida’s supremely honed touch – even if it’s clearly the German soprano in the driving seat. Röschmann’s take on the Op 39 Liederkreis might not be to all tastes, though. It kicks off with an ‘In der Fremde’ that’s intensely pointed, followed by an ‘Intermezzo’ that offers a great deal more than mere reverie. This is Schumann whose Innigkeit seems – paradoxically, perhaps – to be externalised. Uchida is by no means anonymous, but her relative coolness provides an effective foil to Röschmann’s intensity. ‘Die Stille’ is full of quick wit and delight in the words; ‘Die Mondnacht’ is exquisite in its calm; both ‘Auf einer Burg’ and ‘Wehmut’ are hypnotic in their concentration. But it doesn’t all come off with equal success: ‘Waldesgespräch’ strikes me as a touch deliberate and overinterpreted, for example, while there are occasions throughout when ritardandos risk becoming overstretched, consonants sometimes a touch mannered.
Perhaps both the Liederkreis and the Frauenliebe und -leben have been coloured by the programme’s pivot, Berg’s Seven Early Songs. The Berg opened the second half of the concert, and finds the artists in even more completely satisfying equilibrium: the sensuality of Röschmann’s voice, rich and even plummy in its lower register but soaring with purity and point to its higher reaches, juxtaposed with the chaste control of Uchida’s accompaniment. It’s extremely seductive and powerful.
And this more successful balancing of the elements characterises the performance of the Chamisso cycle, too. As one might expect from Röschmann, there’s little sense of the obeisant wife here: the intelligence and commitment of her performance elevate the poetry above the standard charges of mawkishness and worse, and I found myself turning to Brigitte Fassbaender’s long-deleted recording of the cycle (DG, 2/86) to find something similarly complex in the strength of character it communicates. Röschmann’s many fans will need no encouragement, and nor will those with a more general interest in Lieder. I’m impatient to hear more from this partnership.