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Schumann: Lieder / Lipovsek, Johnson

Schumann / Lipovsek,Marjana
Release Date: 08/27/2013 
Label:  Newton Classics   Catalog #: 8802198  
Composer:  Robert Schumann
Performer:  Marjana LipovsekGraham Johnson
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



SCHUMANN Liederkreis. Aus den hebräischen Gesängen, Er ist’s. Der Nussbaum. Der Soldat. Die Lotosblume. Mignon. Frauenliebe und -Leben Marjana Lipov?ek (mez); Graham Johnson (pn) NEWTON 8802198 (65:20)


Once in a great while—perhaps every two or three review periods, for me—you hear a disc before which critical evaluation is not only unnecessary but powerless, the kind of disc that defies description because words and sounds seldom match. This is one such disc.

Read more /> Marjana Lipov?ek, now 67, was one of the greatest of all mezzo-sopranos during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, a versatile singer who could bridge the gap between Bach and Stravinsky, Schumann and Mussorgsky. She is the finest Marina in Boris Godunov I’ve ever heard, or hope to hear; the finest mezzo soloist in Bach’s B Minor Mass; and here, a simply superlative Lieder singer. The voice was not classically pure or exquisitely lovely, though her style was pure and her phrasing certainly exquisite. It had just a touch of Slavic vibrato throughout the range and a tiny bit of acid in the high notes which, at full volume, became noticeable, but never, to my ears, annoying or obtrusive. And then there were her exquisite breath control, the almost miraculous coloring and shading of the voice, and her sense of interpretation that was always right, never too much, never too little.


This collection of Schumann Lieder is typical of her best work. Recorded in a span of only three days at the Sofiensaal, Vienna, it presents Lipov?ek in a wide selection of Schumann songs. For those who don’t know the collection well, Liederkreis includes such gems as “Die Stille,” “Mondnacht,” “Im Walde,” “Frühlingsnacht,” and two versions of “In der Fremde.” Lipov?ek sings every single one of them exquisitely and, surprisingly for a “modern” singer of the 1990s, with little rubato touches throughout. Of course she is supported beautifully by pianist Johnson, who was by this point starting to take over from Geoffrey Parsons as the ubiquitous Lieder accompanist of choice (though Parsons would have one last moment of glory in the Wolf Spanisches Liederbuch on EMI). Just listen to the way Lipov?ek phrases, how both she and Johnson suspend time, as in “Auf einer Burg,” or the impetuous yet hesitant tempo in the second version of “In der Fremde”: this is Lieder singing, and playing, on an exceptionally high level, a sort rarely encountered in today’s world of generic voices and equally generic accompanists (Johnson, of course, excepted).


Despite the occasional uptempo song, the general mood of this recital is one of intimacy. Lipov?ek quite simply draws you in and holds you in thrall from first note to last. I’ve not heard such a rare combination of superb interpretation with flawless vocalism (and pianism) since the old days when Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore got together, particularly in their legendary monaural recording of Richard Strauss songs.


Intimacy, then, also marks her interpretation of the Frauenliebe und -Leben cycle, a suite of songs that can so easily be made to sound boring (Lotte Lehmann) or mawkish (several others), and although I was even more impressed by the performance of Sharon Rostof-Zamir on Roméo (with the exceptional accompaniment of Jonathan Zak), this one is good, too. Lipov?ek manages to sound involved but by no means sentimental, and both she and Johnson make a good musical meal of this cycle, which more often than not is merely a frothy dessert. Her tempo choices here are considerably closer than Rostof-Zamir’s, and they sound even slower than that due to the numerous little ritards in the vocal line, but she holds the music together splendidly as she also holds your attention.


My lone complaint, as usual, is the lack of song texts, but I suppose when you’re reissuing a recording on a budget-priced CD you don’t have to care. Who buys CDs nowadays anyway? Yes, I know, we do, but we’re the dinosaurs in a changing world. For the words, if you need them, you can always go to Emily Ezust’s Lied and Art Song Texts Page to see what’s being sung—and please donate something if you can, as the site receives no support from advertisers.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1. Liederkreis, Op. 39 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Marjana Lipovsek (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Germany 
Language: German 
2. Frauenliebe und Leben, Op. 42 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), Marjana Lipovsek (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Germany 
Language: German 
3. Myrthen, Op. 25: Excerpt(s) by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Marjana Lipovsek (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Germany 
Language: German 
4. Lieder (5), Op. 40: no 3, Der Soldat by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Marjana Lipovsek (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Germany 
Language: German 
5. Lieder Album für die Jugend, Op. 79: no 28, Mignon by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Marjana Lipovsek (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849; Germany 
Language: German 
6. Lieder Album für die Jugend, Op. 79: no 23, Er ist's by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), Marjana Lipovsek (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849; Germany 
Language: German 

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