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Evan Dickerson
Fanfare, September 2007

The standard of performance is very high indeed, with all three singers giving committed contributions. Sibylla Rubens’s purity of tone works well in its own right to aid directness of expression, but also complements the natural richness found in Stefanie Irányi’s mezzo during duo passages. Irányi, a mezzo I had heard of but not actually heard in performance before this disc, is a singer I would like to hear more of due to her interpretive skills also. Thomas Bauer’s ascendancy through the ranks of notable baritones continues as a result of this disc, which follows his strong performances on Naxos’s two previous Schumann Lieder releases. Uta Hielscher projects the accompaniments throughout clearly and without affectation. © 2007 Fanfare Read complete review

Goran Forsling
MusicWeb International, April 2007

Liederalbum für die Jugend (Album of Songs for the Young) was published in 1849 as a kind of sequel to Album für die Jugend (Album for the Young)—a collection of piano pieces. The aim and the main structure is the same with both collections: providing young people with music for gradual development of technical skill and musical insight. That the Liederalbum is rarely performed is mainly due to the fact the earlier songs are too slight in content for grown-ups while the later ones are too testing for young performers. In the last handful we find settings of Mörike and Goethe that are anything but children’s music. This notwithstanding the collection is brimful with attractive songs, melodically appealing, that should be heard more often, at least when sung as on this disc: simply, naturally and with no attempts to invest more meaning than the text and the music can bear, but all the time with immense care for phrasing and nuances. Of course this isn’t a song-cycle and it would not be a good idea to perform the 29 short songs in the published order at a live recital, no more so than playing all the 153 pieces of that other great pedagogical work, Bartók’s Microcosmos from beginning to end. On the other hand a judiciously picked group of contrasting songs would no doubt be an asset to any song recital. Of the individual songs I at once fell for the first one, Der Abendstern, a wonderful melody, sung unaffectedly and with warmth. Der Sandmann is another gem, just as Frühlings Ankunft, filled with expectancy, and the messengers of summer, Die Schwalben (The Swallows), nervously flying back and forth. As a ‘filler’ we also get the five Lieder und Gesänge I, published the same year. Since it seems that the many songs written during the ‘Lieder Year’ 1840, tend to overshadow Schumann’s remaining output. They are also infrequently heard—the best known probably No. 4, Jasminenstrauch. But all of them are worth hearing, especially when sung with such exquisite shadings as here by Thomas Bauer, who is rapidly rising to the peak of the Lieder singers’ Helicon.

He has been entrusted with the lion’s share of the songs on this disc and what he does here is unerringly right. He has a voice of exceptional beauty and his mezza voce, which he employs on a majority of these songs, is so mellifluous, yet with an inexhaustible supply of colours. And when it comes to songs that require more power he is just as apt. I hope he will be the choice singer for the rest of this Schumann cycle.

Sibylla Rubens has all the attributes to go the same way as Thomas E Bauer—whose ‘E’ has been inserted again, having disappeared on the last disc that came my way. She has a lyrical voice, beautiful with an attractive vibrato, beguilingly twittering in Schmetterling and with an ability to lighten the tone further when needed, as in Der Sandmann, where she sounds appropriately boyish. She also has the means to do full justice to a dramatic and serious song such as the Mörike setting Er ist’s, better known in Hugo Wolf’s version.

The third singer, mezzo-soprano Stefanie Iranyi, takes part in a handful of duets with Sibylla Rubens and hers is also an attractive voice, which blends well with that of the soprano. The two ladies also participate as chorus in the refrain of Weihnachtlied. According to both the track-list and the liner-notes Spinnelied is a trio, but I couldn’t hear the baritone.

Sonically it is up to Naxos’s normal good standards, but in one instance, the first of the two Zigeunerliedchen (tr. 7), there is a change of perspective, making it seem much closer. Most of the accompaniments are quite simple but they are played with conviction by Ute Hielscher, who is balanced on equal terms with the singers.

There are good liner-notes by Gerhard Dietel, but texts and translations are only available as downloads. This issue is on all other accounts a winner from beginning to end. The Liederalbum für die Jugend should ideally be sampled a few songs at a time but I played the full 49 minutes at one sitting—plus the Op. 27 songs—and didn’t encounter a dull moment.

Michael S. Markowitz
Playbill, February 2007

There’s more Schumann on two other new discs. Naxos issues Volume 3 of its complete Schumann song edition. The disc contains the complete Album of Songs for the Young and the Lieder und Gesänge, Op. 27. Israeli-American pianist Yael Weiss plays a mix of early and late piano pieces, some of them appearing on CD for the first time, on a Koch release. The works include the Op. 20 Humoreske and Schumann’s last completed piece, the “Ghost” Variations.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2007

It is quite remarkable how little Schumann understood about the vocal training of young children, his aid to teaching, Album of Songs for the Young, being totally useless for its stated objective. Not only did it not provide a structured improvement in vocal technique, but many of the texts were unsuitable for young people. As teaching was its stated objective it has since offered little attraction to mature singers, the present performance dressed up by spreading the songs between a number of voices. Though it cannot quite shake-off its origins, the singing is of such artistry as to offer a pleasing traversal of a rarity in the concert hall. The perky and silvery voice of Sibylla Rubens adds a nice sense of innocence, Stefanie Iranyi blending perfectly in their duets. Yet it is the young baritone, Thomas Bauer, who captured my attention, for here is a singer who not only possesses a beautiful voice, but also uses it with such innate musicality. He certainly makes the most of his participation in this group of twenty-nine children songs, but to hear him at his best go to track 34, Nur ein lachelnder Blick (Only a smiling glance), the final item of the group of Lieder and Songs. Schumann does here give the piano something more interesting to say than the functional backdrop in the first part of the disc. Whatever is offered the Japanese-born pianist, Uta Hielscher, is outstanding in her sensitivity. Recorded in conjunction with Bavarian Radio early last year, the balance and sound quality is excellent.

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