Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Mendelssohn, Schumann & Liszt

Janet Baker/Geoffrey Parsons & Daniel Barenboim
EMI CZS5 73836 2 2 CD[121 mins]
 Amazon UK  Amazon USA

If you think that a singer is just a voice, or an instrument like any other, this CD will be welcome and you should purchase it without hesitation. If you have own the scores of most Mendelssohn and Liszt lieder you will have no problems. If your German is fluent you may be alright, although I am one of (a minority?) that finds it easier to concentrate upon the whole musical interpretation if the words of songs are before me, even those in my own language (English).

Others may need to be warned that no words or translations at all are supplied in this otherwise thoroughly recommendable re-issue. There ought to be no difficulty in taking a sensible decision, using smaller print and thin strong paper if necessary, and reducing the 7 pages devoted to a new essay about the music and the composers' lives (Mendelssohn's visit to Fingal's Cave etc). I wonder whether the artists had any input into EMI's spending decisions as between the costs of digital remastering versus presentation?

With that hobby horse of mine out of the way, I have listened to Schumann's Liederkreis Op. 39, two of the 16 Mendelssohn songs, and three of a dozen by Liszt, the texts and English translations of which are included in the 750 songs chosen by Fischer-Dieskau for his The Fischer-Dieskau Book of Lieder (Gollancz). Barenboim partners Janet Baker in the Schumann (1968/75); the admired and still missed Geoffrey Parsons, guru to accompanists of the younger generation, until his sudden death long familiar to all regulars at the Wigmore Hall and song enthusiasts world-wide, is the pianist for the Mendelssohn and Liszt selections (1979-80). So these are all recordings from Janet Baker in her prime. \

With so many Janet Baker recordings in the back catalogues to choose from, it will be no surprise to have my confirmation that these are all superb, with her unique, mellifluous tone quality and vocal colouring, and her intelligence of musical phrasing conveying the essence of each fleeting mood, whether eager and ecstatic, or grief laden and despondent. The songs with Parsons have a quality of confidence between musician friends who know each other well; Liederkreis with Barenboim seems to me to have an additional frisson and concentration, which must put this version well up amongst the numerous choices available.

Any record collector who has enjoyed hearing Janet Baker over the years will want to acquire this double CD, and the seductive sounds may suffice for the delights of nostalgia, though I suspect Janet Baker herself would like to claim more than that from her listeners?


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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