Homage to Robert Schumann


Homage to Robert Schumann concert. Daniel Harding conducts the Staatskapelle Dresden with the MDR Rundfunkchor Leipzig (Chorus Master Howard Arman). Features baritone Markus Butter and the following boy soloists of the Dresden Kreuzchor: sopranos Ole Kottner and Franz Lindner as well as altos Sebastian Dominik Pfeifer and Vincent Hoppe. The concert was performed in the Frauenkirche Dresden in 2010 as part of celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Robert Schumann. The  program is:

  •  Schumann Overture to the opera Genoveva
  •  Schumann Scherzo in G minor from the Symphony Fragment in C minor
  •  Schumann "Abendmusik" in B flat minor
  •  Friedrich Hebbel "Nachlied" for Choir and Orchestra
  •  Schumann Requiem für Mignon for Choir, Solo Voices, and Orchestra
  •  Schumann Symphony No. 3 "Rhenish"

Released 2010, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound.   Grade: D

The Frauenkirche is a huge, high cylinder topped by a dome. There is a cutaway on the "back" for the alter, choir, and organ. The interior is stone and plaster decorated in "modern baroque" style. Many spotlights brightly illuminate the alter and the floor in front of the altar where a temporary stage was installed. It's a startlingly beautiful scene. But there must be a lot of reverberation in that space. Getting recording mikes in place must have been a problem. And that problem was maybe not completely solved, because it sounds to me as if the winds in the orchestra tend to drown out the strings and the singers.

The program is short and odd because each piece is supposed to have some connection to the time Schumann spent in Dresden. The program begins with the Overture to Schumann's rarely-performed opera Genoveva. It just so happens that we have a Blu-ray recording of the Genoveva opera from Opernhaus Zürich. I listened to both versions of the Overture and found that the performance by the Staatskapelle Dresden was just as good as that from Zürich.

Next on the program are two fragments left behind by Schumann that have been rescued by Joachim Draheim. Except for their connection to Dresden, these fragments would be of no interest to any one other than a Schumann specialist. Then comes an 11-minute piece setting a poem by Friedrich Hebbel to music of the orchestra and the chorus. The MDR Rundfunkchor Leipzig is a highly respected organization. But this performance suggests to me that the signers in this recording were possibly semi-professional. The last of the short pieces is a setting of Goethe's poem "Requiem für Mignon" for orchestra, choir, and solo voices, including 4 boys. Here again the chorus didn't sound good to me. And including boys in a program that can be recorded only once is a high-risk proposition!

After the warmup above, the orchestra moves on to the "Rhenish." I didn't like this performance on first hearing. I then compared the Dresden take to a nice LP recording of the "Rhenish" I have by the Cleveland Orchestra. After several comparisons, my opinion of the Dresden recording improved. But I finally concluded that a weakness of the strings reduces the singing line and coherence of the Dresden performance. Maybe the folks in the audience heard something different.

So what grade should I give to this Homage? Well, if you live in Saxony, you might want this disc for patriotic reasons. But how about the rest of us? 4 of the 5 warm up pieces probably are not worth paying for. If you have the Genoveva opera, you don't need another version of the overture from this disc. So that leaves us a mediocre recording of the "Rhenish," a symphony that is about 27 minutes long. I question whether you should buy this unless you have a special good reason, so I give it a D. I believe the Dresden folks who attended this event had an experience better than my D would indicate. But I question whether this recording will add enough to your collection to be worth the purchase price.

Sorry, no decent YouTube clip for this.