This recital is so very, very good that you just sit there stunned and then have to pick yourself up off the floor, regroup and sit there stunned for a little while longer. I heard the live version of this concert at Carnegie Hall last spring; this CD was recorded a few weeks later at Wigmore Hall, and I think the Londoners got the better performance, because again, while what I heard was good, this was utterly amazing. Every note of this performance is alive.
Röschmann and Uchida perform three sets of songs, Schumann’s Op. 39 Liederkreis, Berg’s Seven Early Songs, and Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben.
Uchida’s piano playing reveals that the piano part in these songs is not just “accompaniment” but rather a second voice in the piece. She brings out details that I had not registered before – the heartbeat pulse of the piano part in “Intermezzo” in the Leiderkreis, the way the piano lines wrap up the story of witch and wanderer in “Waldesgespräch”, the rushing of the little brook in “In der Fremde” or the simple glow of happiness in “Frühlingsnacht.” I was just listening to bits of the recital again as I write this (sometimes I can figure out what I was talking about in my original chickenscratch notes; other times – as is common with important historical documents – the notes are written in a left-handed scrawl so impenetrably awful that I have to go back and re-create the moment in order to interpret the record) and a second listen does nothing but confirm Uchida’s power to make the piano part speak.
But let’s talk about the singing. This is an absolutely marvelous recital. Röschmann is a first-class interpreter of songs, and there is no better evidence of it than this. Some of the best moments in this were the subtle shifts in mood – the sudden spaciousness at “weites Wunderland ist aufgetan” in “Nacht” during the Berg songs; or the way the word “night” rings – as the text says – at the end of “Traumgekrönt.” Röschmann’s power to make a melodic line stand still and glow (“Mondnacht”) or give an impression of weight and quiet and age (“Auf einer Burg”), simply by the way she colors her voice, is transfixing.
I would be hard pressed to say what my favorite part of this recital was. Schumann’s Op. 39 Leiderkreis is among my favorite sets of songs – maybe because listening note by note through one of Röschmann’s earlier performances of it taught me a lot about song interpretation – and it loses nothing on being heard again and again. That said, as I noted when I discussed the live performance of this program that I heard in April, hearing her sing Berg’s Seven Early Songs made me feel as if I understood them; it’s the sort of performance that reduces one’s notes to a series of exclamation points and attempts to find synonyms for “luminous”. And then there is the last set, Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben. I have a visceral dislike of this song cycle. That said, I loved every moment of this performance of it. There is something profoundly wonderful about the way Röschmann simply takes it as it is, but by virtue of taking it seriously, and drawing everything out of it that’s there, she makes me like it. The last song in particular, where the husband dies, and the vocal part grows quiet and still, is one of the most moving parts of the entire recital.