Schumann & Brahms
Christiane Karg & Malcom Martineau
Wigmore Hall, 2016
This album by Christiane Karg is devoted to Lieder by Robert and Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms and was recorded live during a concert with pianist Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall in London in November 2014. It is an absolutely fine album, even if not always superb.
The German soprano, active in the Mozart repertoire (I reviewed Le nozze di Figaro, where she sings the role of Susanna), ventures here in the Lieder of the Romantic period, choosing a musical journey that recalls the relationship between Brahms and the Schumanns. As in the previous review, I found some qualities in Karg, but also some weaknesses.
I will start from these that, by their nature, make me suspect that they are due at least in part to the live concert. It happens that, although the soprano sings very well, she is often assailed by agitation when a faster tempo is imposed, as in the first two Lieder and still in the middle of the concert as, for example, in An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust.
This anxiety has a negative effect on a judgment that would not want to be negative, since Karg’s voice is not at all unpleasant, but fortunately (passing to the positive sides) there is still a chance to appreciate it in the slower and melancholic Lieder, in which the soprano sings in a more relaxed way and has the capacity to express a variety of emotions. The best quality of the singer is that she is never cold, but always tries to find depth to what she sings: I think that the anxiety above mentioned should be also ascribed to these efforts. Among the most successful Lieder I remember thus Sie liebten sich beide and Liebst du um Schönheit, which are characterized by great sweetness. The delicate accompaniment of Malcolm Martineau is a great support for Karg during the concert.
While it is not the best album of its kind, Schumann & Brahms definitely deserves a listening.