Excellent performance of Schumann's song cycle

This week’s recital was excellently given by Grace Muris soprano in the School Chapel. Dealing with a different environment and acoustic can be difficult especially for a singer but Grace filled the space fantastically with her beautiful voice. Grace sang the German song cycle, Frauenliebe und –leben (A Woman’s Love and Life), by Robert Schumann (1810-1856), which deals with the romantic relationship between a young man and woman, told from her perspective. The music is set to a cycle of poems by Adelbert von Chamisso and Schumann marries the two perfectly to reflect the emotional turmoil of the relationship. Grace set the mood wonderfully by her still, focused presence before beginning the song cycle.

The first song, Seit ich ihm gesehen (Since first I saw him), began very sweetly and Grace embraced the loving nature of this piece by singing the long melodic phrases with a wonderful spin to the sound. The next song, Er, der Herrlichste von allen (He, the most splendid of all), was more lively and sung with just as much energy as the slower first song, which was excellent to see. The piece was very acrobatic, with quick flourishes in the melodic line sung with great support and energy when singing about her lover’s character and features.

Grace started the next song, Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben (I cannot grasp it), with very clear diction and fantastic energy in the words, matching the animated start in the piano part, played by Anne Bolt. This enabled her voice to ring and resonate in the space of the chapel. The fourth song, Du Ring an meinem Finger (Your ring on my finger), explored a slightly lower tessitura and this allowed Grace to show off her richer lower tone. There was also a wonderful sense of unity between the piano and voice with the beginning of some phrases being pulled up to allow emphasise on the new line of text. Following on, Schumann successfully represented wedding bells in the piano part at the beginning of the fifth song, Helft mir, ihr Schwestern (Help me, my sisters). Grace created a fantastic brightness in her sound by brightening her vowel sounds, to show the happiness of the lover on her wedding day. This contrasted nicely to the end with the sorrowful piano part depicting the lover parting from her sisters.

The last song continues this mournful mood with a clear obvious statement from both the voice and piano part, Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan (Now you have caused me the first pain). The long phrase lengths allowed Grace’s voice to spin and thus resulted in her voice opening up beautifully over a simple and quiet, block chord accompaniment. In classic Schumann style, the piano accompaniment took over from the voice and concluded the song cycle, taking us back to the theme from the first song when the lover’s first met. This neatly closes the cycle, harking back to the beginning of the lover’s memories. Meanwhile, Grace held such poise and stillness in her body language, making the audience really feel sorry for the lonely widower.  

It was an extremely enjoyable lunchtime recital with Grace drawing us into the beautifully romantic world of two German lovers and showing off the rich tone and many capabilities of her voice. Congratulations!  

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