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Graham Johnson - pianist here, designer of the whole cycle of discs, and author of the sleeve note booklet - has carried over the idea of a Schubertiad, as it were, and applied it to Schumann. Thus we have an evening's entertainment comprised of the Schumanns at home (both Robert and Clara, four of whose songs are included here, and whose influence upon her husband's work is, in any case, never far away). Joining them are literary and musical friends: twelve poets represented here and, of course, singers and pianist. To complete the sense of social as well as musical occasion, there are three of Robert's partsongs sung quite extraordinarily beautifully by the London Schubert Chorale (conductor Stephen Layton) [listen - track 30, 0:23-1:07]. The evening - or, in this case, a generous 77 minutes - closes appropriately with Robert's Gute Nacht and Clara's Die Gute Nacht.

It is (relatively) easy enough to choose and then perform a single programme of songs - Schumann, Schubert, almost anyone really - and to come up with a triumph, or at least something very interesting, but even with singers of the quality of Stella Doufexis and Oliver Widmer, and even with Graham Johnson's incomparably sensitive and supportive playing, to pull off a complete cycle of all the songs is another matter altogether and very much more challenging because, of course, you must faithfully perform not only the justly celebrated songs, and not only at least some of the unjustly neglected ones, but also the occasional duffer.

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Copyright © 17 September 2000 Peter Dale, Danbury, Essex, UK







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