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Track(s) taken from CDJ33110

Mädchenlieder, Op 103

30 May 1851
author of text

Dame Felicity Lott (soprano), Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
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: 6 minutes 4 seconds

Cover artwork: Photograph of Kate Royal by Malcolm Crowthers


'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)
The astonishingly prolific child prodigy Elisabeth Kulmann (1808–1825) was born into the large German-speaking community living in Russia; she died at the age of seventeen having penned many thousands of verses in Russian, German and Italian. Schumann, who had visited Russia in 1844, took up her cause as soon as he came into possession of the sixth edition of her poetry that was published in Frankfurt in 1851. He seems to have felt it was somehow his urgent responsibility to make the German public aware of Kulmann’s qualities.

The composer set seven songs for solo voice, Op 104, ‘in memory of the poet’; for these he wrote biographical commentaries as headings for each song, placing each setting within the context of Kulmann’s life. There is a note on this cycle (as well as the poet) in the booklet accompanying Volume 3 of the Schumann Hyperion Edition. At the same time he was working on the duets recorded here. While admitting that Schumann’s late style has its revelatory moments and its masterpieces, we cannot help but look back ruefully to the great song composing year, only eleven years earlier. Indeed, we seem decades away from the period when Schumann’s music was effortlessly allied with the greatest poets of the age like Heine and Eichendorff where there was no need for this kind of special pleading. In 1849, it is true, he had written a cycle in memory of the poet Lenau, but in that case there was a real case to be made for the poet’s importance, and Schumann’s songs did much to bring this verse to the attention of musicians.

The first two poems set in Op 103 were taken from a massive sub-section of Kulmann’s verse poetry entitled Gemäldesammlung in vierundzwanzig Sälen (‘Collection of pictures in twenty-four galleries’) written between 1819 and 1820. The poems for the third and fourth duets are from another Gemäldesammlung, this time arranged in twenty ‘galleries’. Schumann ploughed his way, it seems, through hundreds of pages of printed verse in a remarkably substantial and heavy tome in order to pinpoint the lyrics he believed suitable for musical setting. One cannot help feeling that there was an quixotic, even obsessive, side to this quest that stemmed from the composer’s increasingly disturbed psychological state.

Schumann seems to be continuing here in the style of the Liederalbum für die Jugend Op 79—which is to say that the music itself is unchallenging to the ear and has a sweet innocence about it (no doubt because Kulmann herself was a child when she wrote the poems). Schumann seems to have abandoned his penchant for making two voices compete with each other in enunciating different parts of the text at different times—this had resulted in a rich contrapuntal weave in many of the earlier duets. In these Kulmann settings, on the other hand, there is little that Mendelssohn would have found surprising, but quite a bit he may have found awkward. If Schumann had envisaged these songs being sung by children he would have searched in vain for two youngsters capable of singing them sufficiently well. Whenever music is self-consciously simple like this it is inevitably also more exposed; there are challenges here of intonation and breath control that need professional experience, particularly in the slower songs.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2007

Cette fois, il n’y a pas de texte parlé, mais le même style perdure—une grande naïveté musicale comme si Schumann voulait nous faire comprendre que Kulmann était à la fois brillante et enfantine. Deux duos pleins d’entrain (Mailied et An die Nachtigall) se mêlent à deux duos plus rêveurs—Frühlingslied et An den Abendstern, ce dernier étant un morceau de musique calme et intense sur un thème littéraire qui avait sûrement marqué Schumann lorsqu’il avait entendu pour la première fois l’Hymne à Vénus et la Romance à l’étoile de Wolfram dans Tannhäuser de Wagner.

extrait des notes rédigées par Graham Johnson © 2010
Français: Marie-Stella Pâris

Diesmal gibt es keine gesprochenen Übergänge, doch der Stil wird beibehalten, eine sorgsam zur Schau gestellte musikalische Naivität, als wolle Schumann uns zu verstehen geben, dass Kulmann gleichzeitig brillant und kindlich war. Zwei lebhafte Duette (Mailied und An die Nachtigall) sind mit den beiden verträumteren Liedern Frühlingslied und An den Abendstern verwoben, letzteres ein ruhiges, besinnliches Stück Musik für ein literarisches Thema, von dem Schumann zweifellos beim ersten Hören von Wolframs Hymne an den Abendstern in Wagners Tannhäuser eingenommen wurde.

aus dem Begleittext von Graham Johnson © 2010
Deutsch: Henning Weber

Other albums featuring this work

Schumann: The Complete Songs
CDS44441/5010CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
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