Robert Schumann's Myrthen, Op. 25, is much less often heard than his other song sets, even though it contains many charming numbers; draws on Heine, Goethe, and the cream of the Germany poetry crop; and played a major role in the composer's personal life: he presented it as a wedding present to Clara Wieck, with a cover decorated with myrtle (an old German symbol of marriage). The issue seems to be that the set is less than a song cycle but more than a group of unconnected songs: it doesn't give the listener the kind of entry portal that the major Schumann song cycles do. This 2019 release is the second in a Schumann series by baritone Christian Gerhaher, and for several reasons, it makes a strong choice. The booklet contains an essay by Gerhaher himself, unusually lengthy for Sony Classical, arguing for a coherent program that Clara would have recognized: Schumann, he claims, imagined the songs as a sort of survey of successful married life. To this end, the songs are specifically designated for a male and a female singer. Many recordings by men excerpt the set or simply ignore this fact, but here you get soprano Camilla Tilling in the songs for the female voice. There's no question that her bright, clear voice makes an effective contrast with the ponderous Gerhaher, but you might find it a bit metallic. She doesn't get her picture on the cover, but she leads off the show with Friedrich Rückert's Widmung; you might sample that to test your impressions. As usual, Gerhaher's interpretations are telling. He gets the relative simplicity and indeed the joyous quality of many of the songs, which do jell in his readings. He is in top form in his collaboration with accompanist Gerold Huber, a creative presence in nearly every song. Sony's Bavarian Radio studio sound is clear and appropriate. Recommended, and continuing to promise wonderful things for Gerhaher's series, in which the best is being saved for later on.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Myrthen, Op. 25|