Liederalbum für die Jugend op. 79; Liederkreis op. 39 (Ameling, Demus)
These two discs offer two innovations, one inspiring, the other dispiriting. First, it was an excellent idea to record the whole of op.79, the contemporary vocal counterpart of the universally loved keyboard Album for the Young, yet in comparison almost unhonoured as well as unsung. A blameless hour by the nursery fireside may not be everyone's cup of tea; but all Schumannians will know how finely these songs envisage and embody a Brittenesque vulnerability and innocence in tones both moving and disturbing. By deliberate design, the music gradually grows up, until finally Mignon bids adieu to girlish days. Perhaps that maturation is not too clearly observed here; Sonntag sounds to me rather too grown up, not quite awe-struck enough with the ceremony of the Sabbath, while Schneeglöckchen conversely is on the cool and coy side, lacking the radiantly bridal quality with which the music invests the poem. But in general Elly Ameling is just right for this album in her unspoilt freshness and charm of voice. There is depth and assurance too, often with a quite Schwarzkopfian felicity in her fusion of meaning, feeling and melody; one can hardly say fairer, or sing better, than that. Jörg Demus too offers a strikingly sensitive and sympathetic performance. Both artists surpass themselves, especially in the more demanding songs of op.19. In the childhood album however the aptly innocent-sounding voice can be artless in the wrong sense. The occasional transpositions are unnecessary, while such gratuitous tampering with the text as for example the uncalled-for yodelling at the end of Des Knaben Berglied seems to me entirely ill-judged. Worst of all is the crass gimmickry of having the singer perform duets and trios with her own voice by some tiresome trick of superimposition. The resulting constraint and lack of contrast strike me as an imposition, and anything but super. Can Miss Ameling possibly believe that this three-Elly and two-Elly effect is really and truly what the composer intended?
The Musical Times, Jan., 1981 (p. 35) © the estate of eric sams