With Myrthen, baritone Christian Gerhaher, winner of the 2019 Male Singer of the Year from Opus Klassik, embarks on the second chapter of his once-in-a-lifetime project: the complete recording of Robert Schumann’s lieder output.
Since Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s epoch-making recording of the 1970s, no singer has devoted himself more thoroughly to the lied output of Robert Schumann than Christian Gerhaher. Lauded as the greatest lied singer of our time, he launched his complete cycle of Schumann’s lieder with the album Frage, for which he was named Opus Klassik’s 2019 Male Singer of the Year. The complete recording is the fulfilment of a long-cherished dream and, he emphasises, “probably the most important project of my life”.Read more The Neue Zürcher Zeitung spoke of “consummate vocal artistry. Gerhaher has opened a new door in lied interpretation”. The Guardian named it one of the year’s best new classical releases.
As always, Gerhaher is accompanied by the equally brilliant pianist Gerold Huber. Most of the lieder he will sing himself, but for the other parts, duets and ensembles he has invited singers from his intimate circle of friends who number among the best in their vocal category, including Camilla Tilling, Julia Kleiter, Sibylla Rubens, Wiebke Lehmkuhl and Martin Mitterrutzner.
The complete project will encompass ten CDs, to be issued in a boxed set in 2020. Gerhaher himself is in charge of the project’s conception. Besides Sony Classical, with which he has held an exclusive contract since the onset of his career, he has managed to gain two of his longstanding partners as co-producers in this lavish undertaking: Bavarian Radio and the Heidelberg Spring Festival’s International Song Centre, whose goal is to make artists, concert organisers and audiences alive to the relevance of art song today. Both partners will lend media support to the project.
In the second instalment Gerhaher, Hubert and the Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling will devote themselves to the song cycle Myrthen (Myrtles). It was composed in 1840, Schumann’s “year of song”, when most of his works for voice and piano originated. Conceived as a wedding present for his fiancée Clara Wieck (2019 marks the bicentennial of her birth), Myrthen contains settings of words by nine different poets. As Gerhaher stresses in his notes for the recording, the poems are tightly interrelated in their contents. The sequence Schumann selected creates “not just a picture-book”, Gerhaher writes, “but an anticipatory narrative of the path longed for and awaited by two lovers”, producing “one of the loveliest presents ever bestowed by a loving heart upon another”.
It was in this spirit that Schumann handed Myrthen to Clara on 12 September 1840 in a specially produced luxury edition. Since then it has numbered among the great song cycles in music history.
Tilling’s bright, flexible sound is a perfect foil for Gerhaher’s honeyed warmth. Highlights dotted through the disc include Gerhaher’s performance of Byron’s Aus den Hebräischen Gesängen, with its chromatic, almost Schoenbergian piano introduction. Overall, the disc certainly maintains the standard set by the first one.