CD REVIEWS

Gerald Finley • "Schumann: Dichterliebe and Other Heine Settings" (Hyperion)

• "Romanzo di Central Park: Songs by Charles Ives" (Hyperion)

Although Montreal-born baritone Gerald Finley has only in recent years ascended to the operatic first string with his portrayal of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer in John Adams' "Doctor Atomic" (which he's now singing at the Metropolitan Opera), he's a seasoned recitalist who has, of late, launched a solo recording career on the Hyperion label.

The Schumann disc aims for a fascinating cross-section of the composer's song output, the centerpiece of which is his best song cycle, "Dichterliebe." Leading up to it, though, are songs conceived for but rejected from the cycle, illustrating anew how skillfully Schumann achieved a tight emotional arc in the final version. The disc also shows that the composer could aim for lower, more popular taste.

The singing is lovely and well-schooled, but lacking that extra degree of identification heard in Finley's latest disc of Charles Ives songs. Although he doesn't go for the knock-about quality of Jan DeGaetani's classic Ives disc (Nonesuch), this well chosen collection shows Ives adapting popular melodies and hymns almost like an impressionist painter transforming well known scenes and edifices with his own kind of rosy nostalgia and Americana idealization.

Although Finley is attuned to Ives' quirks, this is one of the friendliest Ives discs out there and shouldn't be missed by anyone with a healthy appreciation for American art song.

DAVID PATRICK STEARNS, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER