Duet: Cornelius, Mendelssohn, Schumann

Cornelius, Mendelssohn, Schumann
Lucy Crowe & William Berger, with Iain Burnside (piano)
Delphian. DCD34167. 60’23.

Cornelius: Duette, Op. 16,  Frühling im Sommer, Zweistimmige Lieder,  Zu den Bergen hebt sich ein Augenpaar;
Mendelssohn: Lieder-Duette, Altdeutsches Frühlingslied ‘Der trübe Winter ist vorbei’;
Schumann: Dein Angesicht, Familien-Gemälde, Das Glück, Ich bin dein Baum, Aufträge, Wiegenlied.

Schumann Mendelssohn Cornelius Duet Lucy William Berger Iain Burnside DelphianThis rather unusual CD reflects one of the glories of 19th century domestic music-making (itself reaching its zenith in that period), the repertoire for two voices and piano, in this case represented by Cornelius, Mendelssohn, and Schumann, three of the finest masters of the genre. Generally overlooked nowadays in favour of larger scale performances, this CD reflects a now almost completely forgotten aspect of earlier home life: music making centred on the domestic piano. However, in this case, the venue is more likely to be a saloon, given the recording acoustic of a church and the rather unauthentic use of a modern concert grand piano (given its own billing in the programme note as a Steinway model D, serial number 589064) rather than a period piano – or, indeed, the more likely upright to be found in most 19th century homes.

Although the intimate nature of such a repertoire inclines it to more meditative moods, there is also some liveliness on this CD. Indeed, one of the features of many of the songs is the rapidly changing moods as the music progresses – possibly one of the attractions for composers. They obviously had a personal involvement in what they were writing. For example, it is interesting to see the extent to which Mendelssohn alters the text of the underlying poems. Schumann amended the title of Wiegenlied (Cradle Song) by adding the words ‘at the Bedside of a Sick Child’, bearing no relation to the lullaby text of the poem, but reflecting the death of Schumann’s own son in 1847.

Soprano Lucy Crowe and baritone William Berger’s voices are ideally suited to this repertoire and the blend well together. Interspersed amongst the duets are five solo songs, allowing their solo voices an airing.  Iain Burnside’s accompaniments are sensitive, restraining the power of the piano to acceptable levels.

A fascinating repertoire, beautifully expressed.

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