Andrè Schuen’s dramatic presence and self-assurance were evident from the start, as he and Gerold Huber embarked on a storm-tossed journey through Robert Schumann’s melded world of emotions. Huber was so immersed in the microcosm of each song that he mouthed the words to himself, and his accompaniment throughout was faultless, supporting Schuen’s considerable vocal qualities; they made an enthralling partnership.
Schuen’s voice has depth and power, and an energetic sense of forward motion informed the entire recital. Sweetness and flexibility combined with a natural theatricality. The final four settings of Kerner-Lieder are more contemplative and interior. Schuen was expansive here and produced moments of high drama in ‘Stille Tränen’. The reflective questioning of ‘Wer machte dich so krank’ and ‘Alte Laute’ were played through seamlessly in a dream-like piano and pianissimo.
The Five Songs of Opus 40 are set to texts mainly by Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Chamisso who provides the final poem. They reflect themes that are even bleaker and darker than those in Schumann’s well-known song-cycles, and concludes with a raven’s croak threatening death to a defenceless baby. Schuen conveyed the proximity of death-in-life with great attention to detail in words and music.
The Ladino numbers which followed are wistful love-songs and lullabies, carefully chosen to echo Schumann’s subjects, expressed with a limpid simplicity by this duo. Three songs by Felix Dapoz were particularly charming, and Jepele Frontull’s ‘Nos salvans’ provided a rousing patriotic hymn to the Ladino way of life.
Schumann’s Opus 90 Lieder is pervaded with melancholy, and the tension between words and music is unbearably painful at times. Schuen and Huber navigated their way through the emotional fragility of ‘Meine Rose’ and the hopelessness of ‘Der schwere Abend’ without indulgence, communicating the essence of the musical purpose to the passionate conclusion, the spiritual drama, ’Requiem’.
For an encore, further Schumann, ‘Zum Schluß’, the last of the twenty-six songs of the Myrthen cycle, Opus 25.