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An appealing programme

Mahler, Schumann
and Britten,
reviewed by

Crear Classics    AV 2077

Ann Murray - Malcolm Martineau - Schumann - Mahler - Britten. © 2005 Crear Classics

This is an appealing programme, held together by connections you might not have suspected and projected with intelligence and sensitivity on the part of both singer and pianist.

In the Mahler and Schumann Murray and Martineau are at their best in the gentle, intimate moments. They find a quiet confidence in Mahler's Ich atmet' einen linden duft which looks forward to the similar emotions in the early songs of the Schumann cycle. Liebst du um Schönheit is projected with a touching sense of confiding eagerness, while the quiet inward intensity of Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen is almost tangible [listen -- track 5, 0:01-1:50].

Intimate, rapturous emotions abound in Frauenliebe und Leben, and Murray and Martineau are eloquent in the wonder of 'Seit ich ihn gesehen' and the eagerness of 'Er, der Herrlichste von allen' [listen -- track 7, 0:01-0:46]. In 'Ich kann's nicht fassen' Murray nicely conveys the girl's flusterment (if there is such a word) at finding herself loved. The mother-child bonding of 'Süsser Freund, du blickest' is all the more moving for its lack of sentimentality, while Martineau's poignant eloquence in the concluding adagio of the final song matches Murray's own.

A charm of lullabies sets texts by William Blake, Robert Burns and others. While nothing is allowed to darken the communing of Schumann's mother and child, we are now in Britten territory, so mustn't be surprised to find darker, more sinister forces occasionally at work. Singer and pianist touch them in just enough to make their presence felt without emotionally overbalancing the work as a whole, and in the gentle lulling of 'The Nurse's Song' they dispel infant nightmares with moving tenderness [listen -- track 18, 0:56-1:53].

In the Cabaret Songs 'Tell me the Truth about Love' comes across with a suitably sardonic tone. Changing the published order to place 'Funeral Blues' at the end brings another, more unexpected, connection with the Schumann, which likewise ends with a bereavement. Murray and Martineau, however, finish the Britten on a note of raw, passionate anger which Schumann's heroine is unlikely to have conceived.

So far, so good. But for me the disc was spoiled by the tendency of Murray's top notes to turn squally. This starts to set in in the third verse of Mahler's Um Mitternacht and dogs much of the Schumann, the wide leaps in the fourth verse of Helft mir, ihr Schwestern being particularly troublesome in this respect. A shame, because otherwise this is a very attractive disc.

Copyright © 18 February 2006 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


Ann Murray - Schumann - Mahler - Britten

AV 2077 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 67'16" 2005 Crear Classics

Ann Murray, mezzo-soprano; Malcolm Martineau, piano

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911): Songs to poems by Friedrich Rückert: Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder!; Ich atmet' einen linden Duft!; Um Mitternacht; Liebst du um Schönheit; Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen; Robert Schumann (1810-1856): Frauenliebe und Leben - song cycle to poems by Adelbert von Chamisso; Benjamin Britten (1913-1976): A Charm of Lullabies Op 41 (1947); Cabaret Songs, set to poems by W H Auden: Calypso; O tell me the truth about love; Johnny; Funeral Blues


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