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Franz SCHUBERT (1797–1828)
Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition 21: Poets of Sensibility, Volume 4
Zufriedenheit (2nd setting) D501 [02:32]; Das Lied vom Reifen D532* [01:57]; An die Natur D372 [02:03]; Morgenlied D266* [03:03]; Blumenlied D431 [01:42]; Pflicht und Liebe (Fragment) D467* [02:59]; Erntelied D434 [01:47]; Zufriedenheit (1st setting) D362 [02:09]; Mailied D503* [02:07]; Die Mainacht D194 [02:47]; Am ersten Maimorgen D344 [02:16]; An die Nachtigall D497* [01:25]; Daphne am Bach D411* [02:57]; Frühlingslied D398 [01:24]; Phidile D500* [04:39]; Die Knabenzeit D400 [02:10]; An den Mond D468* [02:54]; An die Nachtigall D196* [02:10]; Klage um Ali Bey D496A [02:58]; Abendlied D276* [04:54]; Winterlied D401 [02:12]; Am Grabe Anselmos D504* [03:28]; Die Laube D214 [02:38]; Wiegenlied ("Schlafe, süsser holder Knabe" D498* [03:16]
Birgid Steinberger (soprano)*; Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone); Ulrich Eisenlohr (fortepiano)
rec. Bayrischer Rundfunk Studio 2, Munich, Germany, 30 November - 5 December 2004
NAXOS 8.557569 [62:27]

Both the good and the bad are quickly enough told. The good because we know it already. Volume 3 of the discs dedicated to “Poets of Sensibility” was sung throughout by Wolfgang Holzmair and both I and my other colleagues who reviewed it were unanimous in our admiration – the disc was one of January’s “Bargains of the Month” (see reviews by CH and AO). As far as Holzmair himself is concerned I really need only confirm that he maintains his high standard.

Also carried over from the previous disc is Ulrich Eisenlohr’s use of a Viennese Hammerflügel. It won’t be a culture shock if you’re not keen on original instruments – a smallish modern Bösendorfer does not sound that much different – while it brings its own piquancy to the mainly simple accompaniments.
 
But Holzmair only sings half the disc. The notes tell us that Birgid Steinberger has had some success in opera, though the only role named is Despina. This I can well believe, for she has the sort of light, bright voice, a bit squeaky at the top, which can do very well for a pert serving-girl if she has a good stage presence - this I don’t know but I will happily give her the benefit of the doubt. For lieder, it isn’t enough. She actually manages quite nicely when the range of a song stays around the middle of her voice, as in “Daphne am Bach”, and she makes a good attempt at varying her timbre for the last stanza of this piece. But alas, her vocal resources are limited; hear what Holzmair does with the four stanzas of “Winterlied” and you will discover what a really great singer - and voice - can do with an apparently simple song. She begins “An den Mond” creditably enough - though might she not have been happier singing it a tone lower? - but comes under strain as the music goes into the minor key. Likewise, her attempt to be dramatic in “An die Nachtigall” (the Hölty setting, D.196) becomes squally. She does well, though, with the one well-known song here, the closing “Wiegenlied”. The real trouble is that, just as you are beginning to get used to her and to think perhaps she is not too bad after all, up pops Holzmair to show what real quality of voice and interpretation is.
 
All things considered, this Naxos series continues to be a very patchy alternative to the Hyperion, in spite of its undoubted successes. However, some might feel that at the Naxos price you can afford to take on a disc of which only half is top quality. Indeed, you could well argue that Holzmair’s singing of “Die Mainacht” is worth the price on its own.
 
As is now customary you get good notes but the texts and translations have to be pulled down from the Internet.
 
Christopher Howell
 
see also review by Goran Forsling


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