Robert Schumann’s songs are not only one of the high points of musical Romanticism, they also represent a unique marriage of words and music. Not since Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s pioneering recording in the 1970s has there been a singer who has explored Schumann’s entire lieder output in such detail. As one of the foremost lieder singers of our day, Christian Gerhaher has gone even further than Fischer-Dieskau and together with his brilliant pianist Gerold Huber has realized one of his dearest wishes after more than three decades of intensive engagement with Schumann’s music.
Their 11-CD edition of Robert Schumann: The Complete Songs will be released on September 3, 2021 and will be available digitally as well. A co-production between Sony Classical and BR-KLASSIK, with the support of the International Song Centre Heidelberg, initiated by the Heidelberger Frühling music festival, this set features 299 songs – almost the whole of the composer’s lieder output. The approach adopted by Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber is artistic and biographical rather than encyclopaedic. Schumann famously focused on lieder composition during two periods in his life: 1840–41 and 1849–53. By analogy with this focus, the first six CDs are devoted to the earlier period, the remaining five to the later years. Within this arrangement, Gerhaher and Huber have consciously eschewed a purely chronological or purely thematic approach, their aim being to preserve what for Schumann himself was the essential unity of his song cycles and to embed the individual songs within a chronological and thematic inner context. The songs that Schumann wrote during his youth and that were not published during his lifetime have not been included in this project. Also omitted are the melodramas and the works that deviate from classical song form or that are a part of much longer works. In the wake of these recordings, Gerhaher has also subjected his earlier Schumann releases to a critical overhaul. The bulk of the songs that appeared in his earlier albums Dichterliebe and Melancholie in 2004 and 2007 respectively have been re-recorded (among these songs are Dichterliebe op. 48 and the Sechs Gedichte und Requiem op. 90); conversely, other earlier recordings, including the Eichendorff Liederkreis op. 39, have been taken over into the present set. This unique project acquires an extra appeal as a result of new recordings of the cycles for female voice, the rarely heard duets and trios and works for several voices such as the Spanisches Liederspiel op. 74, in which Schumann raised the medium to a whole new artistic level. Among the other eminent artists featured in this edition are Sibylla Rubens, Camilla Tilling, Julia Kleiter, Wiebke Lehmkuhl, Martin Mitterrutzner, Christina Landshamer and Anett Frisch.
The extensive booklet includes all the song texts together with an introduction by the German musicologist Laurenz Lütteken, while Gerhaher himself has set down his personal thoughts on the individual songs. A detailed index completes the documentation. These recordings were supported by the Robert Schumann Research Centre in Düsseldorf.
A wonderful achievement and a marvel of sustained artistry: subtle, intelligent performances, impeccably prepared and movingly executed.
– Gramophone (Editor's Choice, October 2021)
It’s undoubtedly a fine, constantly rewarding set, with every song delivered with the fastidious attention to detail and to the individual colouring of each phrase that has always been a feature of Gerhaer’s lieder singing.
– Guardian (UK)