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Schumann vs. Schubert

It's springtime — time for Dichterliebe

Schumann is better because I have conviction.
Schumann is better because I have conviction.

I was speaking with a friend who is planning a performance of Schubert’s Winterreise. I immediately roasted him by pointing out that it’s springtime.

Video:

Fischer-Diskau

The end-all be-all singer of song-cycles

The end-all be-all singer of song-cycles

I went on to offer some unsolicited advice and recommended Schumann’s Dichterliebe, which begins with the text, “In the lovely month of May.” My so-called friend claimed to prefer Schubert lieder over Schumann and went so far as to say he doesn’t care for Schumann’s lieder.

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Video:

Wunderlich

He's the champion here.

He's the champion here.

“Well,” said I, “I’m not sure I care for you.”

Having done some sloppy online research it is clear that I am in the minority when it comes to Schubert lieder versus Schumann lieder. However, I think it’s a matter of quantity over quality but I might be alone in my opinion.

There is no doubt that Schubert wrote more songs than Schumann. He basically doubled Schumann’s 300+ songs by writing 600+ songs. Schubert might have the single most famous song ever written in his Ave Maria and Schumann has no song which could be considered anywhere close to Ave Maria in popularity.

As is often the case in music, it’s difficult to explain why I like Schumann more than Schubert. It’s actually easy to explain but difficult to quantify the explanation. My emotions are stirred by Schumann’s Dichterliebe, as performed by Fritz Wunderlich, and Schubert’s songs don’t carry the same emotional punch.

I know Winterreise is supposed to be the end all be all of song-cycles but I just can’t get into it. It could be because Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is supposed to be the end-all be-all singer of song-cycles and I find his approach to Winterreise to be religious in all the wrong ways. His diction drives me up the wall because it’s so dictated. Whereas Wunderlich just sings the words without rubbing his idiomatic German in your face at every opportunity.

As May approaches my annual listening to Dichterliebe is nigh and it will only ever be Fritz Wunderlich’s performances. Why not anyone else? Everyone else is, as my 10-year-old would say, too “try hard.” Everyone.

These lieder specialists strike me as being singers who retreat into their speciality because they don’t have other options. In other words they aren’t good enough at opera. That’s pure conjecture, of the worst kind, but lieder specialists seem to ooze “failed opera singer” spores every spring when I consider straying from Wunderlich—except for Thomas Quasthoff. I like him.

What makes Wunderlich and Fischer-Dieskau, for that matter, special is the fact that they had significant opera careers outside lieder. I understand that doesn’t really mean anything but I still cling to my convictions, as unfounded as they might be. If they were founded on something concrete they wouldn’t need to be convictions they would be boring old facts or something close to that.

Clearly Wunderlich is the champion here.

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Schumann is better because I have conviction.
Schumann is better because I have conviction.

I was speaking with a friend who is planning a performance of Schubert’s Winterreise. I immediately roasted him by pointing out that it’s springtime.

Video:

Fischer-Diskau

The end-all be-all singer of song-cycles

The end-all be-all singer of song-cycles

I went on to offer some unsolicited advice and recommended Schumann’s Dichterliebe, which begins with the text, “In the lovely month of May.” My so-called friend claimed to prefer Schubert lieder over Schumann and went so far as to say he doesn’t care for Schumann’s lieder.

Sponsored
Sponsored
Video:

Wunderlich

He's the champion here.

He's the champion here.

“Well,” said I, “I’m not sure I care for you.”

Having done some sloppy online research it is clear that I am in the minority when it comes to Schubert lieder versus Schumann lieder. However, I think it’s a matter of quantity over quality but I might be alone in my opinion.

There is no doubt that Schubert wrote more songs than Schumann. He basically doubled Schumann’s 300+ songs by writing 600+ songs. Schubert might have the single most famous song ever written in his Ave Maria and Schumann has no song which could be considered anywhere close to Ave Maria in popularity.

As is often the case in music, it’s difficult to explain why I like Schumann more than Schubert. It’s actually easy to explain but difficult to quantify the explanation. My emotions are stirred by Schumann’s Dichterliebe, as performed by Fritz Wunderlich, and Schubert’s songs don’t carry the same emotional punch.

I know Winterreise is supposed to be the end all be all of song-cycles but I just can’t get into it. It could be because Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is supposed to be the end-all be-all singer of song-cycles and I find his approach to Winterreise to be religious in all the wrong ways. His diction drives me up the wall because it’s so dictated. Whereas Wunderlich just sings the words without rubbing his idiomatic German in your face at every opportunity.

As May approaches my annual listening to Dichterliebe is nigh and it will only ever be Fritz Wunderlich’s performances. Why not anyone else? Everyone else is, as my 10-year-old would say, too “try hard.” Everyone.

These lieder specialists strike me as being singers who retreat into their speciality because they don’t have other options. In other words they aren’t good enough at opera. That’s pure conjecture, of the worst kind, but lieder specialists seem to ooze “failed opera singer” spores every spring when I consider straying from Wunderlich—except for Thomas Quasthoff. I like him.

What makes Wunderlich and Fischer-Dieskau, for that matter, special is the fact that they had significant opera careers outside lieder. I understand that doesn’t really mean anything but I still cling to my convictions, as unfounded as they might be. If they were founded on something concrete they wouldn’t need to be convictions they would be boring old facts or something close to that.

Clearly Wunderlich is the champion here.

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