If you expect the optional high notes in Dichterliebe that have become pretty much the standard, you will not hear them here. In “Ich Grolle Nicht” it is entirely legitimate to sing the version where the piano carries the melody on the words at the end of the second strophe (“Herzen frisst, Ich sah, mein Lieb, wie sehr du elend bist”), but I find that it takes away from the drama when the top notes are missing. In a good programming decision, the other four Heine songs that Schumann had thought about but finally decided by 1844 not to include in the cycle are presented as a group after the 16 songs of Dichterliebe.
Stephan Loges songs with sensitivity to the text, though he tends on occasion to over-emote and sound like he us trying just a bit too hard to convey the emotion, as in expressing the wonder of May. Other times, he doesn’t go far enough. “Im Rhein, im Heiligen Strome” suffers from lack of contrast between the first and second strophes. “Aus Alten Märchen” ends with a reference to the bliss of the dream world that vanishes like mist, but his singing does not convey the pathos of the experience.
The listener also has the chance to hear six songs of Robert Franz (1815-92), whose music is largely unknown and seldom performed today. These songs show how another composer sets several of the same Heine poems as Schumann. Melodically, “Im Wunderschönen Monat Mai” starts off almost exactly like Schumann’s setting but fails to capture the irony of the poem with anything close to the effectiveness of Schumann. Loges sings them with fine attention to text, phrasing and dynamics.
The singer’s voice sounds somewhat cloudy, dusky and throaty and seems best suited to the more sombre sound of Brahms. There is nothing wrong with this recording, but there may not be enough so good about it that you will want to rush out and get it. The last time a CD of songs by Franz was reviewed in ARG was November/December 1992, so this is a chance to hear his music sung by a good singer.
The accompaniment of Alexander Schmalcz is fine, especially in the poignant postlude of Schumann’s “Mein Wagen rollet langsam”, and the recorded sound is very good. Informative notes and full texts are included.