Olaf Bär is a baritone with a light, flexible
voice that, at times, recalls Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Yet he does
not have the same intensity as DF-D; at times this does make
a difference, but at others Bärs less complex singing seems to
fit the music perfectly.
In this re-release of his recordings of Schuberts
two greatest song cycles, Bär shows a great deal of youthful exuberance.
In Die Schöne Mullerin, his singing has a simple, almost naïve
sound, yet he is capable of becoming profound and serious when necessary,
as in Am Feierabend, where he alternates between lightness and dark,
between a certain legerté and a more intense reflection.
His reading of Des Baches Wiegenlied, the final song in the cycle, and
one of unforgettable melancholy, is one of the finest on disc. His clear
and light tone fits perfectly with this song of homecoming, and Geoffrey
Parsons seems to mould his playing to each syllable of Bärs singing
so perfectly that they sound as one.
Bärs voice sounds darker in his recording of
Winterreise; it is almost as if he is a different singer. He adopts
a different persona in this song cycle of youthful angst, making his
voice take on richer, more earthy, colours, singing at times with great
force and at others with intense subtlety. His tempi are a bit slower
than many singers of this cycle, yet this, too, fits his tone, as does
Geoffrey Parsons fine accompaniment. The best example of Bärs
flexibility and brilliant reading of this work is in the very first
song, Gute Nacht, at the points where the song shifts keys from D minor
to D major, then back again. One can hear the two tones of his voice
as he changes keys, and takes on a totally different sound at each change.
He projects playfulness when singing Die Post, and seriousness in the
intense Der stürmische Morgen, and the full pathos of his wide
range is apparent at the culmination of the cycle, Der Leiermann.
This re-release of these essential recordings of Schuberts
great song cycles in EMIs double fforte series, at a bargain price,
is a disc that should not be missed. Any lover of Schuberts lieder
will find Bär to be one of the great singers of recent times, who
deserves much greater recognition.