MOZART, Haydn &
Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone)
& Imogen Cooper (piano)
Philips Classics 454 475-2
This generously filled CD starts with the advantage that Wolfgang Holzmair
is one of the best young Lieder singers now before the public, and he has
an established partnership with the admired pianist Imogen Cooper, which
has yielded some fine Schubert performances. This collection becomes immediately
uncompetitive and difficult to recommend, because Holzmair's sung English
is not adequate for Haydn's English Canzonets, of which eight are included.
For those, the unsurpassed Britten/Pears performances come to mind first,
though they appear not to be in the catalogue just now? Holzmair's Mozart
troubled me, because the lower keys for baritone darkened the accompaniments
inevitably and Imogen Cooper's way with it is all too generalised, with a
warm, modern grand piano tone. This is early lieder singing which turns its
back on newer insights about performing music of the period.
That it is perfectly possible to suggest the right keyboard style on a modern
piano is shown by Mitsuko Shirai and her husband Hartmut Holl, whose recording
of Mozart songs, 21 of them, show him as a song writer to be more interesting
than you might expect; delightful [Capriccio 10 098 * * * * *].
Their several Lieder recordings for Capriccio, which have a pride of place
in my collection, are distinguished by finding a different manner and tone
(in voice as well as accompaniment) for each composer they tackle.
Twenty minutes of Beethoven (Adelaide & An die ferne Geliebte) from Holzmair
& Cooper does not make up for the limitations already indicated. Nor
does their performance of An die ferne Geliebte, the first important song
cycle, composed to be played continuously, which should give a feeling of
cumulative urgency and intensity, quite lacking here. The voice is beautiful
throughout; the recording seems to eliminate any possible hard edges, and
Cooper over-pedals to my taste.
Peter Grahame Woolf