Frauenliebe und –leben op. 42 [+ Schubert misc. Songs] (Ameling, Baldwin)
The cycle gets off to a rather shaky start; then it gathers emptional momentum most movingly, only to go downhill at the end. Frauenliebe demands total intensity from the outset. The poor girl is said to be dazed and dazzled to the point of blindness; but the lightning flash of passion sounds rather down to earth here. The suddenly a real radiance illumines the next six songs. Especially memorable are those high notes that symbolize lowliness, as the “Demut”, “Herren mein” and so on; they make their triumphant submission very tellingly. But the last song seemed to me to overstress the harshness of grief. Ought not the vocal recitative to be (so to speak) veiled, and wearing black?
But this Frauenliebe certainly shows that Elly Ameling excels at outgoing feeling. Perhaps this prompted her selection of open-air Schubert, which is well made, freshly sung and tastefully presented. But Schubertian nature-study is no picnic; and its textual and interpretative problems have not been fully confronted. Thus in Das Lied im Grünen it would surely have been better to omit verse seven – as Schubert did. Not only has it no authority of its own; it detracts from the singer’s. Most sopranos would find it hard to persuade us that they had studied Plato and Kant in their boyhood and young manhood. All these songs demand a profound identification with their moods and scenes, typically dawns or nightfalls graced with birdsong. The Hölty An die Nachtigall for example should have been vividly eloquent of time and place; instead, the time is all over the place (bars 15 and 16).
The pianist has a hand in this wilfulness – inexplicably, because Dalton Baldwin is elsewhere as exemplary as ever. And so is Ameling’s Schubert, whenever the songs call for personal charm rather than impersonal calm. Thus the blithe al fresco flights of Die Vögel are entirely delightful. But I missed not only the inwardness of Schumann’s domestic interiors but the greatness of Schubert’s great outdoors, which is fully as innig in its own way.
The Musical Times, Mar., 1976 (p. 236) © the estate of eric sams