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Album review: Gerald Finley and Julius Drake masters of Schumann's subtle art song art

By John Terauds on October 30, 2012

(Richard Termine photo)

Judy Dench one told an interviewer that she does all of her acting with the eyes. The art of the art song is just as subtle, the slightest vocal gesture or shift in timbre allowing a singer to instantly communicate the shifting emotional topography of the poetry.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

In their new album issued by Hyperion, Canadian baritone Gerald Finley’s latest collaboration with British pianist Julius Drake reveals two masters of this very fine art, turning each of these Lieder by Robert Schumann (1810-1856) into an exquisite — but never precious — miniature.

Torontonians heard a memorable preview of this finely wrought album in a Toronto Summer Music recital at Koerner Hall, and the studio version does not disappoint.

There isn’t a note or syllable out of place, or a phrase left unpolished, as this remarkable duo guide us gently by the hand and ear through Schumann’s rich musical world. This really is an equal collaboration, as the piano alternately underpins, garnishes and becomes interwoven with the vocal line. Drake is no less a master than Finley.

The album features 27 Lieder from three song cycles written in 1840, based on poems by Heinrich Heine (the love-tossed Liederkreis Op. 24) and Joseph von Eichendorff (the more shadowy Liederkreis Op. 39) and Robert Reinick (folksy Sechs Gedichte aus dem Liederbuch eines Malers — Six Poems from a Painter’s Songbook — Op. 36).

The album lends itself to different kinds of listening, from a superficial drift into an altered, dreamlike state, to a wonder-filled study in how a singer can colour the same vowel a half-dozen ways to achieve different emotional effects.

These are masterful art songs rendered by two of the finest practitioners of the genre.

John Terauds

 

For all the details on this album, click here.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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