Lieder by Brahms and Schumann

Elsa Cavelti/Geoffrey Parsons HMV


Widmung and Von ewiger Liebe are immortelles; even Meine Rose borders on being a perennial favourite. But the rest (to judge from the catalogues) were born to blush almost unheard, or at least unrecorded. So why were they picked? Some might have been culled as colourful contrasts or comparisons. Brahms's Ein Wanderer and Schumann's An den Mond clearly go well together. The former's An eine Aeolsharfe and Lerchengesang are both notable for remote floating tones. But his Abenddämmerung tells how Eve's fingers drew o'er all their gradual dusky veil; so unlike Salome's. Similarly Schumann's Zigeunerliedchen are a well-matched pair, about an escaping boy and an abducted girl; while the crazed bitterness of his Der Spielmann clashes sharply with the bland sweetness of his late Provenzalisches Lied.

     Of that song Hugo Wolf once reported, as critic of the Wiener Salonblatt, that it was so beautiful as to make one forget the deficiencies of the performance. I doubt whether he would have thought that about this one. It seems to me that unless the vocal line is alert and alight with the lyric life of the words, the lied can very easily be the most prosy and least lively of all art-forms. From Mme Cavelti I heard only one hint of any such links, at “Luchs” in Salome, the last song on the second side. There was an earlier attempt to touch off the word “Schuss” at the end of the first Zigeunerliedchen: but that parting shot seemed to me to misfire.

     By all means let songs be chosen which sound un­familiar to the listener; but not to the singer. Mme Cavelti appears anxious and uncertain, as if lacking confidence in her selection. I fear that neither voice nor piano atones for this, though Geoffrey Parsons, has, as ever, a nice touch and some nice touches. Otherwise the best feature is the very competent sleeve note (except that the words of Von ewiger Liebe are by Hoffmann, not Wenzig).


The Musical Times, Feb., 1973 (p.151) © the estate of eric sams