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Hugo WOLF (1860-1903)
Manuel Venegas and Orchesterlieder

Goethe Lieder - Mignon I (Kennst du das Land)
Mignon II (Kennst du das Land)
Anakreons Grab
Mörike Lieder - Er ist's
Auf ein altes Bild
In der Frühe
Schlafendes Jesuskind
An den Schlaf
Neue Liebe
Wo find' ich Trost?
Denk' es, o Seele!
Gesang Weylas
Spanisches Liederbuch, 'Spanish Songbook' - In dem Schatten meiner Locken (trans Heyse) from Der Corregidor
Mitsuko Shirai (mezzo-soprano)
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/David Shallon
Spanisches Liederbuch, 'Spanish Songbook' - In dem Schatten meiner Locken (trans Heyse) from Der Corregidor *
Auf dem grünen Balkon (trans Heyse)
Wenn du zu den Blumen gehst (trans Heyse)
Wer sein holdes Lieb verloren (trans Geibel)
Herz, verzage nicht geschwind (trans Heyse)
Alle gingen, Herz, zur Ruh (trans Geibel) *
Komm, o Tod (wds. C. Esriva, trans Geibel) *
Deine Mutter, süsses Kind
Geh' Geliebter (trans Geibel) *
Mitsuko Shirai (mezzo-soprano) *
Josef Protschka (tenor)
Hartmut Höll (piano)
Manuel Venegas
Manuel Venegas - Josef Protschka (tenor)
Don Trinidad - Cornelius Hauptmann (bass), Josef Protschka
Vitriolo - Christoph Späth (tenor)
Carlos - Oliver Widmer (baritone)
Morisco Kor-Jan Dusseljee (tenor)
Soledad Arregui - Mitsuko Shirai (mezzo-soprano)
Württemberg Chamber Choir, Stuttgart/Dieter Kurz (chorus master)
Hartmut Höll (piano)
Recorded in Berlin, Stuttgart and Heidelberg, 1989-90
CAPRICCIO 69 091/92 [2 CDs: 52.20 + 57.50]

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This is a double CD reissue of two Capriccio discs first issued over a decade ago. It contains the orchestrated Wolf songs and the surviving (piano accompanied) fragment of the opera Manuel Venegas. The latter is especially important, and though its incompleteness is a lamentable fact, we can nevertheless appreciate what was written. Fifty or so pages of vocal score are all that remains since Wolf then suffered an irreversible breakdown. This amounts to some half an hour of music. The plot is of the Rich Man Returned variety, in which Manuel returns, newly rich, to find his loved one married to another. Its immediately apparent from the opening chorus for the villagers, Frühling, Herrscher in sonnigen Blau that Wolfs imagination and command were quite untouched by his illness. The lightness and airiness of the chorus and its distribution of weight are unarguably confident and assured and also delightfully sprung. Wolf manages to feed some songs from the Spanisches Liederbuch into the operatic fragment as well, and his Wagnerian inheritance makes itself apparent throughout. Also apparent is Hartmut Hölls superbly supportive and imaginative pianism, his conveyance of sonority, mood and weight. Protschka is at his considerable best in the long and beautiful passage Stadt meiner Väter, meiner Knabenzeit nicely emphatic but also lyric. Mitsuko Shirai is assured enough to take some of her passages rather slowly but with great character and refinement of legato.

Its mezzo Shirai who bears the weight of the rest of the disc and a half, the self-orchestrated Wolf songs. Wolf was never more explicitly Wagnerian than in these settings and the lineage can be felt with unsuffocating aptness throughout (Tristan in An den Schlaf is perhaps the most obvious example). The orchestrations tend to inflate the meaning of the poems and its arguable that they make explicit what the piano-accompanied versions suggest through half-light and shade. Nevertheless there are some first recordings here and its certainly valuable to hear them, not least in such idiomatic and commanding performances. Shirai brings considerable reserves of agility, tonal nuance and power to the mezzo part. Hers is a very vibrant sound with quite an insistent, pressing vibrato (sample Kennst du das Land to see if you are sympathetic to it). Alongside Shirai we can appreciate the contributions of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor David Shallon; the harp in Kennst du das Land, the Wagnerian horns in In der Frühe, the solo violin in Gebet, the intimate orchestration of Schlafendes Jesuskind as well as the aerial winds in Karwoche and the burnished romanticism, powerful tread and coiled orchestration of Wo find' ich Trost? There are two versions of Kennst du das Land, the first from 1890 and the second from three years later, though the differences are really minimal. Shirai is joined by Protschka for some of the Spanisches Liederbuch in the second disc, here accompanied once more by the agile Hartmut Höll. Protschka is agile and delicate in equal measure in Wenn du zu den Blumen gehst and is strong but subtle, with a fine cynical admixture, in Herz, verzage nicht geschwind. In fact both he and Shirai prove once again powerful advocates for this music.

The original release of Manuel Venegas came without libretto - an omission for which Capriccio has now made ample amends. Full texts of all songs and the operatic excerpts are included German and English and there is a useful introduction to the problems and complexities of these works. Idiomatic and resourceful, these are welcome reissues and strongly commended.

Jonathan Woolf

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