This CD of songs by Clara Schumann stands out from standard recitals on several counts. First, the piano accompaniment has been arranged for string quartet by the soloist. Second, the soprano soloist is male. Jörg Waschinski describes himself not as a counter tenor, but as a soprano, because the range of most countertenors is closer to that of an alto or mezzo-soprano. (Vocal pedagogues may quibble over Waschinski's appropriation of the term, claiming that true sopranos don't use falsetto, as he does, but he does nonetheless sing in the soprano register.) There's never any question as to whether a man or woman is singing; his voice has the lightness characteristic of most countertenors, even though his range extends higher than the usual. Since the repertoire of the Romantic lied has rarely been broached by countertenors, it may take a few tracks before the listener is acclimated to the novel sound, which is generally quite attractive. Here Waschinski is not helped by the recording, in which he seems to be miked a little distantly in relationship to the quartet, so that his lower register is sometimes nearly covered by the strings. His tone is warm, and, as is appropriate for this repertoire, he sings with more vibrato than countertenors tend to use in Baroque music. His interpretation is sensitive to Schumann's nuanced text setting. Waschinski's arrangement of the piano part is rather literal, more like a transcription than an arrangement; it's easy to imagine that a freer and more inventive arrangement might have had the strings deployed in a way that would have shown off his voice to better effect. The Aulos-Streichquartett Berlin plays with elegance and understated passion, but it's hard to avoid the impression that the capabilities of a string quartet are not being fully exploited. This is, though, a credible and attractive presentation of Schumann's too-rarely heard lieder and should be of interest to fans of the composer and of Romantic song.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins