Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, and Hugo Wolf together form German art song’s Holy Trinity. To the degree that the general population knows anything about the intimate art of lieder singing, it is almost exclusively through the works of these three composers. And within these composers’s substantial oeuvres, three song cycles have achieved conspicuous popularity. They are, of course, Die Schöne Müllerin and Die Winterreise by Schubert and Schumann’s Dichterliebe. Their fame rests largely on the broad canvases the composers employed and also on the exceptional craft that refines them. But there may be another reason modern audiences have so embraced these cycles: they possess, for lack of a better term, a “cinematic” quality, i.e., a strong sense of place and mood that’s vividly paired with bold narration.

On Sunday, March 1, at a much anticipated recital on the campus of the...

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