Emil HARTMANN (1836-1898)
Nordic and German Songs
Two Songs, from op.13 [5:13]
Nine Love Songs [20:18]
At the Cemetery [1:53]
Three Songs, op.15a [7:33]
The Dying Child [5:00]
Four Songs, op.1 [6:09]
Without Hope [3:05]
Cradle Song [3:08]
Four Songs, Op.21 [7:47]
Ten songs, from 'Norwegian Lyric Poetry' [26:06]
Two Poems by Bernhard Malmstrøm [5:55]
Six Songs, op.35a [17:47]
Six Songs, op.35b [14:56]
Iben Vestergård (soprano)
Cathrine Penderup (piano)
rec. Søllerød Sognegård, Denmark, 26-29 March, 4-5 June 2010. DDD
DANACORD DACOCD 712-713 [60:06 + 64:44]
This CD was recently reviewed on MusicWeb International here. Unfortunately the generally negative tone of that review is fully justified: there is simply no sidestepping the fact that the success of this double disc depends to a great extent on Danish soprano Iben Vestergård's voice. It is hard to imagine that many people will find its thin, reedy quality sufficiently attractive. Those robust souls that do will surely tire at the lack of passion in Vestergård's voice and the slips in intonation, or fail to escape the feeling that she is forever on the verge of running out of breath.
Anyone giving up the first disc of Danish songs as a bad job halfway through and hoping for better from the songs in other languages on CD 2 is going to be disappointed - it is more of Vestergård ploughing her way through colourlessly.
But no - that is not quite true. In the German songs towards the end of the disc, if the listener can only make it that far, Vestergård really does improve: there is better control in and projection of her voice and more conviction in her singing. This double disc was recorded over four days, three months apart: more than a suggestion in the German songs, maybe, that she might genuinely have been off-colour whilst recording the Scandinavian songs?
Cathrine Penderup's piano playing is by contrast good enough throughout, although Hartmann's musical accompaniment itself generally tends towards the fairly predictable - these songs are certainly not in Edvard Grieg's league. That said, there is a reasonable improvement in the pianism of the later-opus-number-bearing Norsk Lyrik and German songs on disc 2.
The chunky CD booklet is attractive and contains two fine essays on Hartmann's life and his songs, as well as full song texts, albeit untranslated. The recording is of very high quality, which makes it all the more a pity that no one at Danacord applied a critical ear to the recording masters prior to publication.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk

see also review by Göran Forsling
The singer here might well have been off-colour whilst making this recording.