SCHUMANN Dichterliebe. Liederkreis
Yes, the three of them do fit. It might seem an obvious piece of programming to bring together the three best known of Schumann’s song-cycles but few discs have done so. At 77 minutes, there could even be room for a short encore. If the coupling is what is required, James Gilchrist and his meticulous accompanist, Anna Tilbrook, have the market almost to themselves.
Gilchrist sets the mood from the start, entering the world of the Op 24 Liederkreis with a soft touch and confiding tone. These are lyrical performances, nicely fluent in pace, though the voice can sound shallow when he is singing quietly and sometimes (more troublingly) edgy with a fast vibrato. In the Op 39 Liederkreis Gilchrist’s light tenor is good at painting the moonlit night of ‘Mondnacht’ and the more ominous twilight of ‘Zwielicht’, but there is a bit too much wide-eyed, breathless urgency, for example in the second ‘In der Fremde’. His Dichterliebe is the cycle of a kindly poet, who recounts sweetly the age-old tale of the boy who loves a girl (no bitter lesson being learnt here) and shapes phrases that gently unfurl in the light of a summer morning. In all this he is well supported by the clean-cut, carefully detailed playing of Tilbrook, who modestly leaves any point-making to the singer.
Gilchrist’s sensitive Schumann has its own distinctive flavour. In comparisons with other British tenors, he yields to Ian Bostridge in plangency of tone and ambition of expression. Among present-day singers the leading contender, if counting baritones, has to be Christian Gerhaher, so simple and touching in the Op 39 Liederkreis and Dichterliebe. Those, however, are on different discs. For all three cycles at one go, Gilchrist makes a good-value recommendation.