Lieder (Schreier, Olbertz)

Selected Lieder. Peter Schreier/Walter Olbertz.


Peter Schreier sings the words beautifully, enunciates them clearly, expresses them feelingly. Walter Olbertz performs an analogous office for the piano parts. They make a well-matched pair; the whole disc sounds like an exceptionally well-rounded recital. Yet I feel there is a missing segment. The performances are too studied in one sense, and in another not studied enough. Mendelssohn may not be a mainstream lied composer, but he’s no back-water either. Under the smooth bright surface of this record, one can detect a certain slackness about the undercurrents and even an element of stagnation in the deeper reaches.

     Take the famous Gruss as an example. The Heine lyric is all lightness and lilt. But the piano plods; and the vocal line is a sweet slow drip like treacle from a tablespoon. At this tempo, Mendelssohn’s impulse from a vernal wood sounds as if the spring had just broken. Conversely, Altdeutsches Frühlingslied should surely present the singer’s main mood as one of mourning, the sole dark spot in an otherwise bright world. But Peter Schreier wears his rue with indifference, even jauntiness.

      It is fair to say that whenever the interpretations are in no way taxing we are given full value; thus the Uhland Hirtenlied is a perfect paradigm of the pastoral convention. In many respects the disc offers an admirable introduction to the Mendelssohn song. But it seems to me that the introduction stops well short of close acquaintanceship, let alone intimacy.


The Musical Times, Dec. 1976 (p. 1995) © the estate of eric sams