Hugo WOLF (1860 - 1903)
The Complete Songs - Vol. 3: Italienisches Liederbuch
see end of review for tracklist
Geraldine McGreevy (soprano)¹, Mark Stone (baritone)², Sholto Kynoch (piano)
rec. live, 6 May 2011, Holywell Music Room, Oxford, U.K.
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
STONE RECORDS 5060192780116 [79:10]
Stone Records projected complete Hugo Wolf cycle is progressing rapidly. Here is volume 3 and the next issue is already in the pipeline. The first two volumes (see reviews of Volume 1 and Volume 2), covering the Mörike songs, set fairly high standards and while I wasn’t wholly enthusiastic over everything there it was good enough to make me look eagerly forward to the next issue. The Mörike songs were allocated between four singers, which was a guarantee of contrast. Here, in the delightful 46 songs constituting Italienisches Liederbuch, it was deemed enough to have two singers. This is what most recordings have supplied in the past, from the DG set with Irmgard Seefried and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and onwards. I have not heard all the existing complete sets, but I have an old favourite in a 40-year-old set with Elly Ameling and Gérard Souzay. Seefried, for all her insight in Lieder and all her charm, was beginning, even in 1958, to sound pinched in tone and a bit squally on top notes. Ameling retained for most of her long and distinguished career a naturalness and freshness that made her readings immediately compelling and here she is in truly youthful voice. Souzay was, in his inimitable way, also very natural sounding, less sophisticated and detailed than Fischer-Dieskau but still utterly responsive to the words. By the time of that recording he had lost a little of the bloom his voice had in the 1950s and early 1960s. Occasionally his vibrato becomes very wide indeed but it is still a pliant instrument for most of the time.
The singers on the present disc are nicely contrasted. Geraldine McGreevy’s beautiful, glittering soprano is ideal for most of the female songs. She has a flexible voice and her singing is mostly lively and ‘open-eyed’. There is a sense of voyage of discovery and of the joy she feels at conveying her discoveries to an audience. Since this is a live recording I imagine that the presence of an audience inspired her. The very first song, Auch kleine Dinge, is a fitting ‘motto’ for this delectable collection of miniatures. With the exception of Benedeit die sel’ge Mutter [No. 35] no song exceeds three minutes in length. Ms McGreevy’s simple and innocent approach is so at one with the lyrics:
Even small things can delight us
Even small things can be precious.
Think how gladly we deck ourselves with pearls;
They fetch a great price but are only small.
Think how small the olive is,
And yet it is prized for its goodness.
Think only of the rose, how small she is,
And yet, smells so lovely, as you know.
(Translation: Richard Stokes)
This simplicity is recurrent in many of the other songs, not least Du denkst mit einem Fädchen mich zu fangen (No. 10). The humour of Mein Liebster ist so klein, dass ohne Bücken (No. 15) comes over almost visually.
Mark Stone’s darkish and powerful baritone has been heard in a wide variety of roles in opera houses on both sides of the Atlantic since his debut in 1998. He has also devoted time to art songs. He is an assured singer with excellent diction and there are no vocal shortcomings in his readings here. He is also wonderfully nuanced and his soft singing is often ravishing. Der Mond hat eine schwere Klag’ erhoben (No. 7) has a hushed intensity that is very appealing. Elsewhere he is outgoing in an operatic manner, but always within the scope of true Lieder singing. Sholto Kynoch is as usual a flexible co-musician. The piano part in Wolf’s songs is at least as important as the vocal line. The balance between singers and pianist is ideal and the audience is unusually well-behaved. The songs are presented in the order Wolf advised, which is not always the case in performances or recordings of this work. There are biographical notes on the composer by Mark Stone and an essay on the music by Richard Stokes. This series goes from strength to strength. The next volume will be even more interesting insofar as it will contain several previously unrecorded songs.
The established favourite recordings of Italienisches Liederbuch are not made redundant by this issue but it is a worthy alternative.
Göran Forsling 
A worthy contender. 

1. Auch kleine Dinge [2:17]¹
2. Mir ward gesagt, du reisest in die Ferne [1:43]¹
3. Ihr seid die Allerschönste weit und breit [1:30]²
4. Gesegnet sei, durch den die Welt entstund [1:16]²
5. Selig ihr Blinden, die ihr nicht zu schauen [1:39]²
6. Wer rief dich denn? Wer hat dich herbestellt? [1:01]¹
7. Der Mond hat eine schwere Klag’ erhoben [1:59]²
8. Nun lass uns Frieden schliessen, liebstes Leben [1:42]²
9. Dass doch gemalt all deine Reize wären [2:13]²
10. Du denkst mit einem Fädchen mich zu fangen [1:07]¹
11. Wie lange schon war immer mein Verlangen [2:34]¹
12. Nein, junger Herr, so treibt man’s nicht, fürwahr [0:39]¹
13. Hoffärtig seid Ihr, schönes Kind, und geht [0:40]²
14. Geselle, wolln wir uns in Kutten hüllen [2:14]²
15. Mein Liebster ist so klein, dass ohne Bücken [1:33]¹
16. Ihr jungen Leute, die ihr zieht ins Feld [1:11]¹
17. Und willst du deinen Liebsten sterben sehen [1:54]²
18. Heb auf dein blondes Haupt und schlafe nicht [1:35]²
19. Wir haben beide lange Zeit geschwiegen [2:02]¹
20. Mein Liebster singt am Haus im Mondenscheine [1:21]¹
21. Man sagt mir, deine Mutter woll’ es nicht [0:53]¹
22. Ein Ständchen Euch zu bringen kam ich her [1:17]²
23. Was für ein Lied soll dir gesungen werden [1:51]²
24. Ich esse nun mein Brot nicht trocken mehr [1:47]¹
25. Mein Liebster hat zu Tische mich geladen [0:53]¹
26. Ich liess mir sagen und mir ward erzählt [2:02]²
27. Schon streckt’ ich aus im Bett die müden Glieder [1:49]²
28. Du sagst mir, dass ich keine Fürstin sei [1:19]¹
29. Wohl kenn’ ich Euren Stand, der nicht gering [1:55]¹
30. Lass sie nur gehn, die so die Stolzr spielt [1:18]²
31. Wie soll ich fröhlich sein und lachen gar [1:34]²
32. Was soll der Zorn, mein Schatz, der dich erhitzt? [1:48]¹
33. Sterb’ ich, so hüllt in Blumen meine Glieder [2:29]²
34. Und steht Ihr früh am Morgen auf vom Bette [2:58]²
35. Benedeit die sel’ge Mutter [4:04]²
36. Wenn du, mein Liebster, steigst zum Himmel auf [1:35]¹
37. Wie viele Zeit verlor ich, dich zu lieben [1:30]²
38. Wenn du nicht mit den Augen streifst und lachst [1:32]²
39. Gesegnet sei das Grün und wer es trägt [1:38]¹
40. O wär’ dein Haus durchsichtig wir ein Glas [1:32]¹
41. Heut’ Nacht erhob ich mich um Mitternacht [1:46]¹
42. Nicht länger kann ich singen, denn der Wind [1:23]²
43. Schweig’ einmal still, du garst’ger Schwätzer dort [0:59]¹
44. O wüsstest du, wie viel ich deinetwegen [1:30]²
45. Verschling’ der Abgrund meines Liebsten Hütte [1:11]¹
46. Ich hab’ in Penna einen Liebsten wohnen [0:56]¹