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Hyperion Records

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Photograph of Kate Royal by Malcolm Crowthers
Track(s) taken from CDJ33110
Recording details: January 2004
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: November 2007
Total duration: 3 minutes 1 seconds

'Royal's pure, pellucid tone, free-soaring top notes and refined musicianship give constant pleasure … abetted by Johnson's ever-sentient keyboard-playing, Royal reveals a true understanding of Schumann's Innigkeit … in the final 'Frülingsnacht', often rushed off its feet, she and Johnson catch the elusive mix of secretiveness and ecstasy as perfectly as I have heard' (Gramophone)

'In the Liederkries, Kate Royal, discerningly partnered by Johnson, sings with pure, luminous tone and eloquent phrasing … there are many memorable things here, including a hushed, rapt 'Mondnacht', and a truly ecstatic final 'Frülingsnacht' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Volume 10 … has as its centerpiece a wonderful rendition by Kate Royal of Liederkreis, Ms Royal … again delivers a performance that is remarkable for its intelligence, musicianship, and sheer beauty' (American Record Guide)

'Much of the singing is exceptionally lovely … 'Waldegespräch' amply displays the dramatic flair one expects of a fine operatic artist … Johnson accompanies with his wonted sensitivity and his booklet notes are, as usual, exhaustive in their detail … the engineering is immaculate' (International Record Review)

'This wonderful disc feels like an intimate salon performance by a group of close friends … Liederkries is sung with devotion … by rising wonder-woman Kate Royal … glorious duetting from Lott and Murray, ensemble fun from all the singers and a glimpse of Schumann towards the end of his tragic life in the Mädchenlieder—you don't realise how much you're learning about the composer's genius until it's all over' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Royal's professed affinity for the Lieder repertoire is more than borne out by the recording of Schumann's Eichendorff Liederkreis―[she] gives us everything: hers is a beautifully sung and deeply flet rendition from beginning to end, her specific responses to the words and their meaning never, ever becoming intrusive―the ideal balance of what one wants in performances of this cycle' (Fanfare, USA)

'A stunning achievement for Kate Royal, and another well-deserved feather in the Hyperion cap as this enthralling series continues … Kate Royal tones down some of her interpretations to reflect the genuinely intimate and reflectively pensive music to great effect, lovingly adjusting her voice to the needs of each word … highest recommendation' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

'The program opens with the undervalued Liederkreis cycle … Royal infuses these brief intuitions of forest walks, foreign lands and a 'Moonlit Night' with a glowing musical poetry. Even the sparest, quietest songs hold a sense of vigor and wondrous apprehension' (San Francisco Chronicle)

Sommerruh, WoO7
First line:
Sommerruh, wie schön bist du!
24 November 1849
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The background to the setting of this poem gives a fascinating insight into exactly how free Schumann could be when it came to the setting of words by lesser-known authors.

The poet Christian Schad, the son of a miller, was trained in Leipzig (where, being much younger than Schumann, he would have been aware of the composer’s established reputation). After he had obtained his doctorate of philosophy, Schad was appointed headmaster of a school in Kitzingen am Main. He became editor of a sequence of issues (1850, and then 1852–7) of the Deutscher Musenalmanach and he published his own poems and a translation of Shakespeare sonnets. Schad was in contact with Schumann by letter as early as 1847, enclosing copies of his poems for approval and possible setting. There is no evidence that Schumann took these writings seriously, but he seems to have remained in polite contact with Schad nevertheless. When Schad wrote to the composer concerning the possible publication of a newly commissioned song as a supplement to an almanac of national circulation (the Deutscher Musenalmanach for 1850, to be published in time for Christmas 1849), Schumann became a more engaged correspondent. The composer gently suggested that perhaps Schad would suggest a lyric by an established poet like Uhland, but the setting of one of his own poems by Schumann was clearly regarded as an editor’s perk. Although Schad had long ago sent his Gedichte to Schumann (a set entitled Liederfrühling), the composer had to admit he had mislaid them: could Schad send him new copies? Instead of sending the older printed collection the poet forwarded a group of his poems that were going to appear in the same almanac. Because the deadline was only a matter of days, Schumann swiftly chose one of these for musical setting.

Schumann apologized to the poet by letter, explaining that he was only able to use some of the proffered lyric: Schad’s poem begins ‘Traumverschönte Sommerruh/O wie reich, wie gut bist du’. Schumann contracts this, without turning a hair, to the much simpler ‘Sommeruh, wie schön bist du!’. The next three lines of Schad appear unchanged in Schumann, and three further lines (beginning ‘Klare Glockenklänge klingen’) are also included. After this the remainder of the Schad poem is simply jettisoned, nine lines of it, and Schumann himself composes the rest of the poetic substance, from ‘Welch’ ein Leben, himmlisch Weben!’ to the end—which admittedly consists of many a repeat of ‘wie schön bist du!’, a phrase that is not even genuine Schad. The original poem is published on p. 392 of the Musenalmanach. Because of Schumann’s adaptations, it varies rather spectacularly from the words for the musical setting that Schad was now forced to publish (the deadlines were tight) as a fold-out supplement at the back of the same edition of his almanac (see illustration). We have no record of the poet’s reaction to Schumann’s alterations; there might even have been a row.

It is perhaps because of this that Clara Schumann, after her husband’s death, sufficiently doubted the worth of this music to have a heated argument with Johannes Brahms concerning its inclusion in the Gesammtausgabe volume of the vocal duets. It is fortunate that Brahms’s good opinion of the music won the day. Perhaps she remembered her husband’s struggle with the original text (or possibly Schad’s ungrateful reaction), but in musical terms it is one of the most atmospheric of duets. The key is a gently glinting A major, the marking Nicht schnell. Lazy triplets accompany a sensual melodic line (relaxed in effect, but very hard to sing) which is Schumann’s equivalent of ‘Summertime, and the living is easy’. There is a sunny laziness to this music that is a superb realization of the words. The absence of the bass-clef tessitura (until the final verse that is) permits the weaving of a cat’s cradle of sound between the hands, and all in the treble clef. This is not music of organic development, it is music where time is made to stand still to magical effect.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2007

Other albums featuring this work
'Schumann: The Complete Songs' (CDS44441/50)
Schumann: The Complete Songs
MP3 £35.00FLAC £35.00ALAC £35.00Buy by post £38.50 CDS44441/50  10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
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