Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann

Dennis Helmrich, Piano



"Cary, along with pianist Dennis Helrich, gives an assured account, with elegant phrasing..."
[ * * * ] BBC Music Magazine - January 2010
"Stephen Cary...knows this music, he knows the style, and he is deeply inside these songs. At soft dynamics...Cary is at his best and we get a beautiful rendition... Dennis Heinrich provides sympathetic, strong accompaniments, and MSR’s sound is very natural and superbly balanced. Laurie Shulman’s notes are perceptive and illuminating, and we get full texts and translations."
Henry Fogel, Fanfare - November / December 2009
"Stephen Cary and Dietrich Helmrich present this cycle as expert lieder performers, nuanced and intimate expressions of the deep emotional ranges innate to the German expressive aesthetic... Stephen Cary’s tenor is beautifully lyrical and imbues his performance with a naturally emotive quality so well-suited to Lieder.  The piano and voice parts are so intimately connected, as is perhaps never again duplicated to the same extent in the repertoire, and Helmrich expertly interweaves his voice into the vocal line... The poetry follows the poet as he celebrates his ardor for his beloved and then illustrates his rejection and bitterness at her love for another, which Cary effectively imbues into his melodies and phrasing, particularly his shading of the angst-filled peaks as the poet’s rejection transcends an initial emotional reaction and becomes reality... The liner notes, written by Laurie Shulman, contain beautifully constructed historical and biographical information on the composers and works...  Closing the notes are the texts for the songs presented in both the original German and their English translations."
Robert Myers, Classical Voice of New England - October 2009
"Tenor Stephen Cary and pianist Dennis Helmrich are heard to good effect in a pairing of song-cycles... Cary and Helmrich make a good case for performing Dichterliebe for the tenor voice..."
Phil Muse, Audio Club of Atlanta - September 2009
"The sound is excellent... [In the Beethoven] Cary’s relatively light lyricism and interpretative ability to project the lusty outbursts in the composer’s music is most satisfying. The five additional songs are a nice bonus, and the notes also must be mentioned— excellent on all levels. ably accompanied by Mr. Helmrich. If you want and/or need the Beethoven, this is recommendable."
Steven E. Ritter, Fanfare - September/October 2009
How characteristic that Robert Schumann should have composed his entire Dichterliebe in a scant eight days, from 24 to 31 May, 1840. He worked best in a fever of inspiration, in this case fueled by his passionate love for Clara Wieck. They married that September, after years of battling Clara’s father Friedrich Wieck, who opposed the match. The year 1840 is famously known as Schumann’s ‘year of the Lied,’ and Dichterliebe is its crown jewel. The original cycle consisted of twenty songs on poems from Heinrich Heine’s Lyrische Intermezzo, which was part of Heine’s first major collection, Buch der Lieder (1827). Schumann intended to dedicate the cycle to his friend Felix Mendelssohn. Four years later, while preparing the work for publication by the Leipzig house of C.F. Peters, Schumann (or possibly an editor at the publisher’s) excised four songs, resulting in the familiar sixteen song cycle that anchors this recording. The reasons for truncating were presumably aesthetic, dramatic, and musical. In its trimmed version, the cycle has more narrative thrust and inevitability, capturing the drama of the failed love affair in piercing compression. Dichterliebe was published in 1844 as Op.48, with a dedication to the soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient (1804-1860).

A bookseller’s son, Schumann was literate, educated, and sensitive to poetry. Absorbing the collective and individual impact of Heine’s 75 poems, he divined which among them would work best for music. He made the collection more personal by casting the singer as poet, thereby intensifying the personal element and penetrating to the deeper emotional impact of love’s stages. Again and again, the piano’s eloquent preludes and postludes enhance and broaden the impact of Heine’s verse, as do Schumann’s luminous melodies. The Dresden publisher Wilhelm Paul issued two of the discarded four Lieder in February 1854 as part of Lieder und Gesänge, Op.127; “Lehn’ deine Wang” and “Mein Wagen rollet langsam” appeared posthumously as Op.142, in 1858. Each has its own power and charm, and functions better independently than it would have had it remained embedded in the larger cycle.

Mr. Cary and Mr. Helmrich have placed them following the full cycle, in the order in which they would have occurred in the original, larger group. They have also recorded them in the original keys. Schumann conceived the entire cycle with the tenor voice in mind. Although Dichterliebe is often transposed down and sung by baritones, its tonal and rhetorical logic is most effective in the original keys.

Vocal music is not the first category that comes to mind when we think of Beethoven. Granted that we all know and revere the ‘Ode to Joy’ from the Ninth Symphony, and opera lovers value Fidelio, Beethoven’s sole opera. Experienced choral singers may have performed the Missa Solemnis or the C Major Mass, Op.86. But songs? They just don’t seem to fit. Yet he maintained an interest in Lieder throughout his career.

He composed more than fifty solo songs between 1793 and 1815. The most significant among them are the six Gellert-Lieder, Op.48 (1801/02), six Lieder, Op.75 (published in 1810, but composed earlier), and the three Goethe-Lieder, Op.83 (published 1811), plus a few individual songs such as the popular Adelaide, Op.46. With An die ferne Geliebte, however, Beethoven transcended all his prior efforts. This group of six linked songs not only only ushered in his mature style, but also broke new musical ground as the first unified song cycle.

The texts are by Alois Isidor Jeitteles (1794-1858), a Czech-born physician and poet who was active in Vienna in the mid-1810s. Beethoven may have proposed the topic of the poems to Jeitteles: an absent beloved who will not be returning, with an underlying theme of yearning and renunciation. Whether the poems were a formal commission we do not know; however, Jeitteles’s texts were not published separately. Beethoven’s autograph is dated April 1816, and An die ferne Geliebte was published as Opus 98 in October 1816 by the Viennese house of S.A. Steiner & Co.

The title is usually translated as “To the Distant Beloved,” and therein lies a story. When Beethoven died in 1827, his personal effects included a three-part love letter he wrote to a woman over a period of two days in July 1812. Although he did not address her by name, he called her “my Immortal Beloved” in the text, and her identity intrigued scholars and music historians for a century and a half.

More than half a dozen women whom Beethoven knew were suggested as the object of his affections, but debate continued to swirl. The American musicologist Maynard Solomon published a bold and important biography of Beethoven in 1977 with persuasive arguments that Beethoven’s love interest was Antonie Brentano, wife of the Frankfurt merchant Franz Brentano. She and Beethoven met in May 1810 and became close friends. If Solomon’s theory is correct, they were also in love (there is evidence that her marriage was unhappy); however, she was married with children, and therefore ultimately unattainable. With An die ferne Geliebte, Solomon suggests, Beethoven resigned himself to permanent separation.

It bids farewell to his marriage project, to romantic pretense, to heroic grandiosity, to youth itself. It is a work which accepts loss without piteous outcry, for it preserves intact the memory of the past and refuses to acknowledge the finality of bereavement. Beethoven scholar Joseph Kerman concurs with this reading of the song cycle, holding that, by expressing his emotions openly, Beethoven came to grips with the situation and accepted its hopelessness. Messrs. Cary and Helmrich point out, however, that the cycle concludes on a positive note, suggesting that a reunion is possible.

Beethoven’s musical accomplishment is no less remarkable than the personal milestone implied by Solomon’s and Kerman’s biographical interpretation. An die ferne Geliebte is through-composed, that is, there is little repetition of text and there are no clean breaks between songs. Furthermore, there are no pauses between the six songs. In a sense, it is really one extended song with multiple episodes. There is a finely-wrought symmetry to the cycle. Songs 1 and 6 are in E-flat; the middle two are in A-flat, and numbers 2 and 5 are in G and C, respectively, but the middle stanza of Song 2 is in C major. The modulations are carefully gauged, with an increasingly important role allotted to the piano in the transitional passages that link the songs.

*     *     *

STEPHEN CARY is Professor of Music and a faculty member of the University of Alabama’s School of Music where he has taught for twenty years. He received the Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, and Doctorate of Musical Arts Degrees from the University of Illinois. Among his teachers have been Frances Crawford, Gerard Souzay, John Wustman, Evelyn Reynolds, Ronald Hedlund, and Eric Dalheim. Mr. Cary has appeared as tenor soloist with orchestras and choral organizations throughout the United States in many works including Dvorak’s Requiem, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Magnificat, and Mass in G, Gounod’s St. Cecilia Mass, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Haydn’s Creation, Mass in Time of War, and Nelson Mass, Mozart’s Requiem, Coronation Mass, Regina Coeli, Mass in C minor, and Solemn Vespers, Liszt’s Psalm Thirteen, Rossini’s Stabat Mater, and Vaughan Williams’s Hodie. He has sung numerous performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem. Among Mr. Cary’s opera roles have been Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Bohème, Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata, Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Alfred in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, and the title role in Britten’s Albert Herring.

Dennis Helmrich began his piano studies at the age of five, and both he and his twin brother sang in the famous boychoir of St.Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Helmrich graduated from Yale University, having studied piano with Donald Currier, with a bachelor’s degree cum laude, a master’s degree with honors, and prizes from the Lockwood and Ditson foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts. After pursuing doctoral studies at Boston University, at the age of twenty-four he joined the faculty of Antioch College, and subsequently served on the faculties of the State University of New York campuses at Albany and Purchase, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Manhattan School of Music, The Juilliard School, New York University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where since 2004 he has been chairman of the accompanying division of the School of Music. He has been a Vocal Music Coach on the faculty of the Tanglewood Music Center continuously since 1970. He has recorded chamber music and songs on the Orion, Spectrum, Nonesuch, Chesky, Musical Heritage, Albany, Newport Classics, Delos, and Samsung labels. His publications include translations of opera libretti and song texts, and he has created supertitles for numerous operatic productions.


Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Im wunderschönen Monat Mai
Aus meinen Tränen spriessen
Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube
Wenn ich in deine Augen seh’
Ich will meine Seele tauchen
Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome
Ich grolle nicht
Und wüssten’s die Blumen die kleinen
Das ist ein Flöten und Geige
Hör’ ich das Liedchen klingen
Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen
Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen
Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet
Allnächtlich im Traume
Aus alten Märchen
Die alten, bösen Lieder

Dein Angesicht, so lieb und schön
Lehn dein Wang’ an meine Wang’
Es leuchtet meine Liebe
Mein Wagen rollet langsam

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Ich liebe dich

MSR Classics