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Lieder aus Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Jadglied Op. 84, No. 3 (1831-1839) [2:23]
Altdeutsches Frühlingslied Op. 86 No 6 (1826-1847) [3:30]
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Scheiden und Meiden - from Lieder uns Gesänge aus der Jungendzeit (1880-1890) [2:24]
Ablösung im Sommer from Lieder uns Gesänge aus der Jungendzeit [1:33]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Marienwürmchen - from Lieder-Album für die Jungend Op. 79 No. 13 (1848) [1:51]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Der Überläufer – from Sieben Lieder mit Begleitung des Pianoforte Op. 48 No. 2 (1855) [1:16]
Liebesklage eines Mädchens - from Sieben Lieder mit Begleitung des Pianoforte Op. 48 No. 3 (1855) [1:45]
Gustav MAHLER Nicht Wiedersehen! - from Lieder uns Gesänge aus der Jungendzeit [4:46]
Carl LOEWE (1796-1869) Herr Oluf – from Drei Balladen Op, 2 No. 2 (1821) [5:56]
Gustav MAHLER Ich ging mit Lust - from Lieder uns Gesänge aus der Jungendzeit [4:00]
Um schlimme Kinder artig zu machen - from Lieder uns Gesänge aus der Jungendzeit [1:51]
Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz’- from Lieder uns Gesänge aus der Jungendzeit [4:21]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1947) Himmelsboten Op. 32 No. 5 (1896) [3:09]
Junggesellenschwur Op. 49. No 6 (1902) [2:03]
Alexander von ZEMLINSKY (1871-1942) Das bucklichte Männlein (1934) [2:58]
Arnold SCHÖNBERG (1874-1951) Wie Georg von Frundsberg von sich selber sang – from Sechs Lieder Op. 3 No 1 (1899) [2:29]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826) Abendsegen – from Acht Volkslieder für Gesang und Klavier Op. 64 No 5 (1819) [5:21]
Johannes BRAHMS Wiegenlied – from Fünf Lieder mit Begleitung des Pianoforte Op. 49 No. 4 (1864-1868) [1:03]
Thomas Hampson (baritone); Geoffrey Parsons (piano)
rec. Siemensvilla, Berlin, March 1989. DDD
WARNER CLASSICS 2292 44923-2 [54:16]


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Gustav Mahler is the composer most closely identified with the nineteenth-century collection of German folk poetry, Des Knaben Wunderhorn. However this CD from Thomas Hampson and Geoffrey Parsons is a welcome reminder that other important composers turned to this collection for inspiration when writing lieder. This same team subsequently recorded an important collection of settings by Mahler alone (see review). Here they include six of Mahler’s other Wunderhorn songs.

I think it’s right that there are more settings included here by Mahler than by any other composer for it was he who did more that anyone to put Des Knaben Wunderhorn on the musical map, as it were. For me, in this recital his settings are shown to be the most consistently imaginative in their responses to the texts.

The Mendelssohn items, for example, are charming. However, it’s instructive to contrast his ‘Jagdlied’ with Mahler’s ‘Scheiden und Meiden’. I know that the two settings are separated by some fifty years, during which time musical vocabulary and grammar had moved on immensely. However, the Mendelssohn piece is a fairly conventional strophic hunting song in compound time and that’s about it. Mahler, however, shows how much more can be done with the genre and he cleverly varies the rhythm and style within the song, using a hunting rhythm only in those parts where it’s completely appropriate.

Make no mistake, however, the other Mendelssohn song, ‘Altdeutsches Frühlingslied’, is quite delightful. It’s a lovely, lyrical inspiration. The melody moves forward in long, graceful lines with a rippling piano part underneath. One senses that Hampson and Parsons are completely as one in this performance – though, to be honest, that’s true throughout the disc.

The sole Schumann offering is also delectable. It’s a simple, rather delicate song for which Hampson lightens his voice admirably. It’s logical to follow this with two settings by Schumann’s friend, Brahms. Again, these songs are quite straightforward and direct in style.

I enjoyed Loewe’s ‘Herr Oluf’ very much indeed. This is one of his ballads and it might be described as “son of Erlkönig”. Indeed, the story is that of a nobleman who encounters the daughter of the Erl King while out riding on the eve of his wedding and who is doomed as a consequence. Hampson narrates this rather gothic tale vividly, especially where he characterises the Erl King’s daughter.

Both of the Richard Strauss items were new to me. ‘Himmelsboten’ is expansive and wide-ranging. ‘Junggesellenschwur’ is a rather strange setting, which calls for, and receives, lots of vocal characterisation from Hampson. I must say I didn’t think this was one of the best songs on the disc but Hampson does both it and its companion well. The Schönberg song is a fairly early piece. It’s very firmly rooted in the tradition of romantic lieder. It’s a somewhat bitter, self-pitying poem but Hampson rather belies that with a manly performance. There’s one song which I shan’t be rushing to play again, I fear. Weber’s ‘Abendsegen’ is a strophic song of no less than ten identical stanzas. The basic idea is pleasant enough but nine repetitions strained my tolerance a good deal.

I’ve mentioned one Mahler song already. Of the remainder ‘Ablösung im Sommer’ will be familiar to anyone who knows the Third Symphony for this song furnished the thematic material for the third movement of the symphony. In ‘Nicht Wiedersehen!’, which is placed eighth on the disc, Mahler plumbs greater emotional depths than anything we’ve heard previously in this recital. Like several other of his Wunderhorn settings it’s concerned with death and a vein of tragic melancholy courses through this song. ‘Ich ging mit Lust’ offers an excellent example of Hampson’s superb technique on quiet high notes. This is an innocent, gentle song and it’s exquisitely done here. ‘Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz’’ finds Mahler once again exploring two of his favourite Wunderhorn themes, soldiering and death. Hampson puts across the drama of the song very convincingly and the sadness and pathos of the concluding stanza is particularly well conveyed.

This is another very fine disc from Thomas Hampson and Geoffrey Parsons. Theirs is a true creative partnership and the insightful playing of Parsons consistently gives great pleasure. Hampson is in sovereign voice throughout and it would take far more space than is available here to list examples of his subtleties and refinements. The listener can just revel in the sound of an intelligent singer at the height of his very considerable powers.

Warner Classics provide decent documentation. The notes don’t tell us as much about the individual songs as I’d like but the full texts are supplied in English, French and German. Happily the excellent performances are reported in sound that’s worthy of them.

John Quinn


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