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Liszt, Schumann: Songs / Mika Nisula, Jouni Somero

Release Date: 11/08/2011 
Label:  Fc Records   Catalog #: 9734  
Composer:  Franz LisztRobert Schumann
Performer:  Mika NisulaJouni Somero
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LISZT Petrarch Sonnets. Bist du! Du bist wie eine Blume. Ich liebe dich. Es muß ein Wunderbares sein. SCHUMANN Dichterliebe Mika Nisula (tenor); Jouni Somero (pn) FC 9734 (74:58)

Put this CD on, and if within 30 seconds you’re not saying to yourself, “Holy cow! what a voice!,” there’s something seriously wrong with your hearing. If, within three minutes, you’re not further saying to Read more yourself, “Damn, can this guy phrase, and interpret, and just listen to that vocal control, the way he colors his tones!,” you need to put this magazine down and go read Hot Rods or Ladies’ Home Journal.

It is so very rare that I have the pleasure of discovering and announcing a truly major talent, but Mika Nisula is one of those. This is, without question, one of the biggest, darkest tenor voices you’ll ever hear singing Lieder in your life. He sounds like a young Jon Vickers, but a young Vickers with a sweeter timbre and even greater control of his resources. Nisula gets into the heart of his lyrics in a way that one associates only with the very greatest Lieder singers, such as Fischer-Dieskau, Hotter, Schiøtz, Pears, and Tauber (yes, that Tauber), and from the standpoint of both vocal resources and control of the voice, he can outsing them all.

His performances of the Liszt Lieder are virtually perfect, marred only by the merest hint of a flutter in the soft sustained notes of “Es muß ein Wunderbares sein,” surely one of the composer’s most beautiful and poetic songs. But the acid test is, was, and always will be, the Dichterliebe, particularly as he is facing down such legends as Schiøtz, Souzay (1956, with Cortot), and Fischer-Dieskau, not to mention Thomas Hampson and his family-sized Dichterliebe with 20 songs instead of the usual 16. I’m not terribly fond of Nisula’s slow tempos, which to me sound dangerously close to ponderous, particularly as all the other singers find poetry in it at quicker speeds. He also, oddly, takes long pauses between the first four songs, which are traditionally sung as a group with only short luftpausen between them. But he does a very fine job on many of the songs, though not all. When he reaches “Ich grolle nicht,” which is only really halfway through, he begins to have interpretive problems, and these also show themselves in some of the later songs as well. Souzay or Hampson would be my recommendation for a first choice (if you can find the Souzay, which currently appears to be out of print). I am upset by the lack of song texts as well. Dichterliebe is well enough known by the majority of collectors that it might not matter so much, but the Liszt songs are not that well known or oft-recorded.

Naturally, in a Lieder recital this good, a large portion of the praise must also go to the accompanist. Jouni Somero is an unusual accompanist for our modern era, a player with a rich, full, deep-in-the-keys style that gives full support to Nisula both musically and tonally, complementing his unusually rich voice with wonderful sensitivity. This is an auspicious first hearing, for me, of this remarkably talented tenor.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Petrarch Sonnets (3), S 270 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Mika Nisula (Tenor), Jouni Somero (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839/1861; Switzerland 
Ich liebe dich, S 315 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Mika Nisula (Tenor), Jouni Somero (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857; Weimar, Germany 
Es muss ein Wunderbares sein, S 314 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Mika Nisula (Tenor), Jouni Somero (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857; Weimar, Germany 
Du bist wie eine Blume, S 287 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Mika Nisula (Tenor), Jouni Somero (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1843; Germany 
Dichterliebe, Op. 48 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Mika Nisula (Tenor), Jouni Somero (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Germany 

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