Lieder (Bernard Kruysen, Noël Lee)
I'm not sure, but I think I can interpret the Telefunken message; they aim to become economically independent of the English-speaking public, in accordance with the following plan. First, concentrate on late Schumann songs (plus some of his middle-period rejects) which have remained not merely unheard but unheard-of. Then have these performed in opus number groups, unselectively, so as to appeal mainly to musicologists. Choose some of the most obscure and least appetising to begin. Side 1, so that anyone looking or sampling will be instantly put off. Add an indifferent sleeve-note explaining that not all the songs are very successful, and arrange to have this badly translated. Then comes the final master-stroke; provide no translation at all, and indeed not even a text, of the actual words sung.
Perhaps I'm in a minority, But I doubt whether these ingenious anti-sales gimmicks will prove entirely successful. For one thing, the programme has the striking merit of novelty. Most of these 43 songs, by one of the greatest masters of the genre, have rarely if ever been recorded; so each disc offers discoveries. And although Schumann's song-writing style from 1850 onwards is certainly controversial, not to say dubious, many Lieder-lovers may well wish to hear this record and judge for themselves. Finally the songs chosen are sung and played with affection as well as artistry. Bernard Kruysen's voice may not appeal to everyone; its well-seasoned timbre has a rather grainy quality, like a vocal cross between Gerard Souzay and Lauren Bacall. But the German diction, if not always accurate (that silly slip of "und Brot" for "um Brot" in Op. 77 No. 1, which reverses the meaning, should not have gone uncorrected) is consistently clearly-articulated and above all highly expressive in what seems to me the true Lied style. The sense is made to transfuse and transform the sounds, as when for example a sustained smile in the voice shows how Schumann's wit can play the fool in Twelfth Night (or What You Will, as the notes prefer to call it). Noël Lee's accompaniments are graphically lively or doleful as the prevailing moods require, and this contrast is wholly characteristic of the chosen repertory. Prospective purchasers may like to try Aufträge or Lied eines Schmiedes as samples of the lyric euphoria, while Der schwere Abend or Warnung typify the final melancholia.
© gramophone, Sept., 1977 (p. 468)