Composers: Schumann, Poulenc, Zemlinsky
Compositions: Sechs Gesänge Op. 107, La courte paille, Walzer-Gesänge, Fiançailles pour rire, Gedichte und Requiem
Performers: Hanna-Elisabeth Müller s, Juliane Ruf p
Catalogue Number: Pentatone PTC5186810

In her first recording for Pentatone, the young German soprano Hanna-Elisabeth Müller shines in the songs of Schumann, Poulenc and Zemlinsky. Sensitively partnered by pianist Juliane Ruf, Müller illuminates each of these works with her fresh, bright tone, demonstrating elegance and breadth of phrasing as well as real textual nuance. Possessed of a full lyric coloratura instrument, with impressive breath control and a scrupulously even legato line, Müller’s manifold gifts are ultimately all in service of pure, unaffected communication, on ample display in this lovely recording.

Rarely heard together on disc, Schumann’s six late Gesänge, Op 107 kick things off. Wistful and ethereal in tone and subject matter, Müller and Ruf bring just the right lightness of touch required to tap into the transparent textures of this delicate music. The songs are performed with an exquisitely tender melancholy, beginning with Herzeleid, a depiction of Ophelia’s demise, and culminating with Der Gartner, whose theme of love unrequited inspires a lovely glow and fullness of tone from Müller. She is aided throughout by Ruf’s lucent textures and feel for rubato and harmonic direction.

Poulenc’s La courte paille is the last of the composer’s song cycles, composed to poems by the children’s author Maurice Carême. Though sparer than some of his best loved works, they’re every bit as inspired and anything but childlike, demanding for both singer and pianist. La reine de Coeur, which gives the album its name, is one of the highlights, a candid, touching performance that avoids any hint of mawkishness, and the concluding Lune d’Avril is moving in its simplicity and humility.

Müller is especially delightful in Zemlinsky’s charming Walzer Gesänge, demonstrating a sweetness and power of tone, and she’s completely at home in Poulenc’s Fiançailles pour rire. By turns insouciant and insinuating when needed, there’s also an appealing immediacy here that’s less evident in the other selections. The almost casual intimacy holds the emotional directness but enigmatic imagery of these songs in perfect balance.

Closing out the disc is Schumann’s Op 90 songs, sung with total dramatic conviction and astonishing technical control, culminating in a fantastic Requiem.