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Hugo WOLF (1860-1903)
Italienisches Liederbuch, Part 1, 1890/1 Part 2, 1896:
aElisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano); bDietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone); Gerald Moore (piano).
Texts and translations included. Rec. aSeptember 13th, 1965, aApril 10th-17th, 1966 and aSeptember 27th-October 3rd, 1967, bJanuary 31st and February 2nd, 1966. ADD

Italienisches Liederbuch, Part 1, 1890/1: Auch kleine Dingeb; Mir ward gesagt, du reisest in die Fernea; Ihr seid die Allerschönsteb; Gesegnet sei, durch den Welt entstundb; Selig ihr Blindenb; Wer rief ich den?a; Der Mond hat eine schwere Klag’ erhobenb; Nun lass uns Frieden schliessenb; Dass doch gemalt all’ deine Reize wärenb; Du denkst mit einem Fädchena; Wie lange schon war immer mein Verlangena; Nein, junger Herra; Hoffärtig seid Ihr, schönes Kindb; Geselle, woll’n wir uns in Kutten hüllenb; Mein Liebster ist so kleinb; Ihr jungen Leutea; Und willst du deinen Liebsten sterben sehenb; Heb’ auf dein blondes Hauptb; Wir haben beidea; Mein Liebster singta; Man sagt mir, deine Mutter woll’ es nichta; Ein Ständchen Euch zu bringenb.
Part 2, 1896: Was für ein Lied soll dir gesungen werdenb; Ich esse nun mein Brot nicht trocken mehra; Mein Liebster hat zu Tische mich geladena; Ich liess mir sagena; Schon streckt’ ich aus im Bett die müden Gliederb; Du sagst mir, dass ich keine Fürstin seia; Wohn kenn’ ich Euren Standa; Lass sie nur geh’nb; Wie soll ich fröhlcih seina; Was soll der Zorna; Sterb’ ich, so hüllt in Blumen meine Gliederb; Und steht Ihr früh am Morgenb; Benedeit dir sel’ge Mutterb; Wenn du, mein Liebster, steigst zum Himmel aufa; Wie viele Zeit verlor’ ichb; Wenn di mich mit den Augen streifstb; Gesegnet sei das Grüna; O wär’dein Haus durchsichtig wie ein Glasa; Heut’ Nacht erhob ich mich um Mitternachtb; Nicht länger kann ich singenb; Schweig’ einmal stilla; O wüsstest du, wie viel ich deinetwegenb; Verschling’ der Abgrunda; Ich hab’ in Penna einen Liebsten wohnena.

Here is a welcome opportunity to reappraise a favourite. These performances have achieved a quasi-legendary status, and time has merely confirmed their greatness. Both singers may have habits that irritate some listeners. Both are instantly recognisable by their respective vocal tones and by their almost fanatical attention to diction. Fischer-Dieskau can over-egg his Wolfian pudding occasionally (although he has been guiltier of this particular foible elsewhere).

Shining through, underneath and above all of this is the third part of the equation – and here I can find no fault at all (unusually for me, perhaps!). Gerald Moore’s accompanying is absolutely exemplary. Try the piano’s invocation of peace in No. 8, ‘Nun lass uns frieden schliessen’, for example, or the sweetness of No. 10, ‘Du denkst mit einem Fädchen’, or the hyper-Romantic gestures of No. 14, Geselle, woll’n wir uns in Kutten hüllen’, or the superb left-hand fanfares of No. 16, ‘Ihr jungen Leute’, or the tolling bass of the death-obsessed No. 32, ‘Wass soll der Zorn’. The list goes on and on …

In fact the opening of the first song sets it all up. Moore’s legato is exemplary, using just the right amount of pedal to create the atmosphere, but retaining the clarity of the harmonic thought here. Fischer-Dieskau’s legato is wonderfully smooth, but perhaps there is just a hint of too much accent at ‘doch gesucht’. In Fischer-Dieskau’s hands, the short third song, ‘Ihr seid die Allerschönste’ becomes a mini-music-drama of 1’34 duration.

Schwarzkopf is just as involved and involving. Just occasionally there is the feeling she is luxuriating in her own crystal-clear diction. Yet she pulls out the goods time and time again. This seems to come from her ability to enter the world of any given song. She is possibly at her best in the simpler settings, wherein she can project an innocence born of experience – try No. 34, ‘Und steht Ihr früh am Morgen’ as an example of this.

The recording is excellent (producers are Walter Legge – who else? – and Gerd Berg), and Simon Gibson’s remastering is beyond criticism. But it is Wolf’s unfailing imagination that fascinates and stimulated throughout, gripping always and ensuring that turning off half way through is well-nigh impossible. Wolf was a one-off in many ways, his end a tragedy. The sheer variety of his Lieder, the way he can summon up an epic in a minute or less - all this is miraculous. And you will feel it all here.

Colin Clarke

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