Hugo WOLF (1860 - 1903)
The Complete Songs Vol 4
Keller, Fallersleben, Ibsen and other poets
1. Auf der Wanderschaft II (Chamisso) ¹ [0:59]
2. Der Schwalben Heimkehr (Herlossohn) ¹ [1:47]
3. Der goldene Morgen (Anonymous) ² [1:28]
4. So wahr die Sonne scheinet (Rückert) ² [1:26]
5. Ständchen (Körner) ² [5:10]
6. Bescheidene Liebe (Anonymous) ¹ [2:05]
7. Perlenfischer (Roquette) ¹ [1:45]
8. Andenken (Matthisson) ¹ [2:07]
9. Wanderlied (Anonymous) ² [1:25]
10. Auf der Wanderschaft (Chamisso) ² [1:03]
11. Auf der Wanderung (von Fallersleben) ² [2:01]
12. Leibesfrühling (von Fallersleben) ² [1:33]
13. Ja, die Schönst! ich sagt es offen (von Fallersleben) ² [2:39]
14. Nach dem Abschiede (von Fallersleben) ² [2:21]
15. Ein Grab (Günther) ² [2:01]
16. Abendglöcklein (Zusner) ¹ [3:33]
17. Über Nacht (Sturm) ¹ [3:10]
18. Nacht und Grab (Zschokke) ² [5:08]
19. Das Kind am Brunnen (Hebbel) ² [3:41]
20. Knabentod (Hebbel) ² [1:35]
Alte Weisen: Sechs Gedichte von Keller ¹
21. I. Tretet ein, hoher Krieger [2:14]
22. II. Singt mein Schatz wie ein Fink [1:14]
23. III. Du milchjunger Knabe [1:38]
24. IV. Wandl’ ich in dem Morgentau [2:12]
25. V. Das Köhlerweib ist trunken [1:17]
26. VI. Wie glänzt der helle Mond [4:09]
Drei Gesänge aus Ibsens ”Das Fest auf Solhaug” (Klingenfeld after Ibsen)
27. I. Gesang Margits ¹ [5:12]
28. II. Gudmunds erster Gesang ² [2:33]
29. III. Gudmunds zweiter Gesang ² [2:38]
Mary Bevan (soprano) ¹, Quirijn de Lang (baritone) ², Sholto Kynoch (piano)
rec. 11 October 2011, Holywell Music Room, Oxford, U.K.
Sung texts and English translations enclosed
STONE RECORDS 5060192780161 [72:18]

In this, the fourth volume of Stone Records’ complete survey of Hugo Wolf’s Lieder output, we have mostly juvenilia. One of the earliest seems to be Nacht und Grab (tr. 18), written before September 1875 by a 15-year-old Wolf. This setting of two stanzas by the totally unknown Heinrich Zschokke, is simple but affecting and no doubt points forward to the greatness that was to come. And it should be stressed at once that lovers of German Lieder should really jump at the opportunity to hear these songs. You will not immediately recognize the mature Wolf, rather they sound like a youthful Brahms in ebullient mood. Listening through these early songs I never had a feeling that I was hearing second-rate music and while most of the poets are obscure - at least today - one can easily understand that the young man found inspiration in the poems. It is true that Wolf later rejected most of his early efforts, but I see no reason why we, latter-day listeners, should dismiss them without giving them a try.
Auf der Wanderschaft II that opens the recital is disarmingly melodious. It may not catch the depressed mood of the poem but it spreads balm on the poet’s sorrows. Listen to the beautiful Ständchen (tr. 5). The words are by Theodor Körner, not one of the most illuminating of poets but the song is attractive and the piano part is fine. Bescheidene Liebe (tr. 6) is humorous and charming and Auf der Wanderung (tr. 11), with its jolly dancing ¾ rhythm is lovely in its simplicity. Liebesfrühling (TR. 12) is sad but with a little smile in reserve, and in Ja, die Schönst! (tr. 13) we start to recognize the mature Wolf’s personal turn of phrase and harmonic inventiveness.
Yes, there is something to like and nurture in all these songs, more than most the deeply felt Nach dem Abschiede (tr. 14), and when we reach Hebbel’s Das Kind am Brunnen (tr. 19) we are drawn into an Erlkönig-like drama. Knabentod, which follows, is a kind of sequel. Both are taut and eerie - here Wolf is beginning to develop his craft.
Fully developed are his Alte Weisen: Sechs Gedichte von Keller, composed in 1890. In this group of songs the ‘real’ Wolf is heard: the descriptive, independent piano part, the typically Wolfian melodic twists, the biting harmonies. The final song is a mild, otherworldly portrait of nature. From about the same time are the three songs from Ibsen’s The Feast at Solhaug. This was a commission from the Burgtheater in Vienna in 1891 and Wolf produced five choruses, two instrumental preludes and three songs, all of them with large orchestra. Ideally they should be heard with orchestra but we have to be happy that they are heard at all. Wolf himself had high opinions about his score: ‘real theatre music, vivid and full of life’, he wrote in a letter. Everybody doesn’t share that opinion, I suppose, but it is good for once to hear the songs.
Sholto Kynoch, who is the pianist throughout this project, has so far been extremely good and he is a pillar of strength here too. The two singers here, both new to me, are very well suited to this early songs with their fresh and youthful voices and a kind of down-to-earth simplicity. The baritone Quirijn de Lang has the same nature-boy approach as the young Herrmann Prey, which is praise indeed. Mary Bevan also understands the risks of interpreting undemanding songs over the top. Don’t misread me now. The songs, however undemanding when it comes to technical and textual matters, must not wrung to pieces through too much emphasis but neither must they be sung ‘blank’. Ms Bevan finds the perfect balance and the songs tell their stories the same way a good reciter makes a text speak without whipping up frenzy.
All in all this is a damn good disc that should be a revelation to both jaded collectors and relatively innocent beginners. This side of Hugo Wolf’s legacy has been rather ignored and though little here will be seen as immortal golden masterpieces there are enough of less valuable but hopefully just as enduring pearls to satisfy also the most discriminating connoisseurs.
Göran Forsling

All in all this is a damn good disc that should be a revelation to both jaded collectors and relatively innocent beginners.