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Hugo WOLF (1860 - 1903)
Italienisches Liederbuch
see end of review for details
Joan Rodgers (soprano)
Roderick Williams (baritone) (remaining tracks)
Roger Vignoles (piano)
rec. 3-6 July 2012, Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, UK
Sung texts and English translations enclosed
CHAMPS HILL RECORDS CHRCD054 [77:09]

Recordings from one’s relative youth tend to be those one most readily returns to - no doubt for familiarity and ‘safe’ readings when one is not in exploring mood. For me the standard Italienisches Liederbuch has been a Philips recording from more than forty years ago. The even older DG issue with Fischer-Dieskau and Seefried is in many ways on a par with the Philips but Seefried is beginning to show her age; she was not more than forty but sounds worn in places. Less than a year ago I had another recording with British singers of an earlier generation, Janet Baker and John Shirley-Quirk, recorded live at Aldeburgh. Both singers were strong personalities and that recording dug really deep, so deep that I awarded it a Recording of the Month and also included it among my Recordings of the Year.
 
The present disc initially left me in two minds. I have long admired Joan Rodgers as a song interpreter, occasionally with some reservations. Rachmaninov’s complete songs on a 3-CD set from Brilliant, where she was one of four singers, were not completely to my taste, while a Hyperion recital with Tchaikovsky songs was wonderful. Auch kleine Dinge that opens this disc is conceived on a rather grand scale - I would have liked it more intimate. Pretty soon it dawned on me that there is a point in her approach. Mein Liebster ist so klein (tr. 6) and Ich esse nun mein Brot nicht trocken mehr (tr. 8) are wonderfully expressive and when we came to the delectable Du denkst mit einem Fädchen mich zu fangen (tr. 15) she had won me over. Du sagst mir, daß ich keine Fürstin sei (tr. 17) also sounds very idiomatic. There are still songs where I feel she is more outgoing than I would like, but Wohl kenn’ ich Euren Stand (tr. 24) is exactly as inward as I expected. Wenn du, mein Liebster, steigst zum Himmel auf (tr. 30) and Man sagt mir, deine Mutter woll es nicht (tr. 31) are both expressive, especially the latter song, nervous, eager, perplexed. She is a good story-teller in Mein Liebster hat zu Tische mich geladen (tr. 34) and in Schweig einmal still (tr. 40) we hear drama and irony. Wir haben Beide lange Zeit geschwiegen (tr. 44) is delicately sung and the concluding Ich hab in Penna einen Liebsten wohnen (tr. 46), a Leporellian catalogue aria, has the right glint in the eye.
 
I have to admit that I wasn’t very familiar with Roderick Williams but I was absolutely stunned by his singing here. He has a beautiful, manly voice with superb ability to express nuance. Just listen to his wonderful reading of Und steht Ihr früh am Morgen auf (tr. 5), not to mention Und willst du deinen Liebsten sterben sehen (tr. 14). Admire his diction, his expressivity in Hoffärtig seid Ihr, schönes Kind (tr. 16) or the hauntingly sung bleak Sterb’ich, so hüllt in Blumen meine Glieder (tr. 21) - indeed every song is a masterpiece in his readings. Let me just point out a couple more: the word-painting in Laß sie nur gehn (tr. 25), the beautifully soothing Nun lass uns Frieden schliessen (tr. 38) and Nicht länger kann ich singen (tr. 39). He is no doubt even better than John Shirley-Quirk in many places.
 
This issue also scores in the pianist. Roger Vignoles has always impressed me greatly, ever since I first heard him in the flesh, accompanying Kiri Te Kanawa at Barbican Hall all those years ago. We are lucky indeed to have such an accomplished artist around. He openly declares that it was Gerald Moore who was his inspiration to embark upon a career as accompanist, and he has the same feeling for nuances.
 
A small but important correction: In the booklet the information on which songs Joan Rodgers sings is incomplete. I have provided the correct information above. The sound is excellent and full marks also for the inclusion of full texts with English translations.
 
We are already spoilt for choice of recordings of these wonderful songs and this set complicates the situation further. I still insist that the live Aldeburgh recording with Baker and Shirley-Quirk is worth every penny but those who must have a studio recording will find singing of the highest order from Dawn Upshaw and Olaf Bär on an EMI set. It is still available from Amazon.
 
Göran Forsling
 
Track listing
1. Auch kleine Dinge können uns entzücken [2:05]
2. Was für ein Lied soll dir gesungen werden [1:42]
3. Gesegnet sei, durch den die Welt entstund [1:27]
4. Gesegnet sei das Grün [1:34]
5. Und steht Ihr früh am Morgen auf [2:44]
6. Mein Liebster ist so klein [1:34]
7. Ihr jungen Leute [1:16]
8. Ich esse nun mein Brot nicht trocken mehr [1:41]
9. Schon streckt’ ich aus im Bett die müden Glieder [1:50]
10. Mein Liebster singt [1:29]
11. Ein Ständchen Euch zu bringen [1:18]
12. Geselle, woll’n wir uns in Kutter hüllen [2:14]
13. Wie lange schon war immer mein Verlangen [2:25]
14. Und willst du deinen Liebsten sterben sehen [2:08]
15. Du denkst mit einem Fädchen mich zu fangen [1:04]
16. Hoffärtig seid Ihr, schönes Kind [0:44]
17. Du sagst mir, daß ich keine Fürstin sei [1:10]
18. Nein, junger Herr [0:46]
19. Der Mond hat eine schwere Klag’ erhoben [2:00]
20. O wär dein Haus durchsichtig wie ein Glas [1:35]
21. Sterb’ ich so hüllt in Blumen meine Glieder [2:36]
22. Wie soll ich fröhlich sein [1:38]
23. Wenn du mich mit den Augen streifst [1:44]
24. Wohl kenn’ ich Euren Stand [1:56]
25. Laß sie nur gehn [1:24]
26. Heb’ auf dein blondes Haupt [1:50]
27. Mir ward gesagt, du reisest in die Ferne [1:47]
28. Ihr seid die Allerschönste [1:41]
29. Dass doch gemalt all’ deine Reize wären [2:00]
30. Wenn du, mein Liebster, steigst zum Himmel auf [1:42]
31. Man sagt mir, deine Mutter woll es nicht [0:59]
32. Heut Nacht erhob ich mich [1:49]
33. Benedeit die sel’ge Mutter [3:50]
34. Mein Liebster hat zu Tische mich geladen [0:55]
35. Ich ließ mir sagen [1:58]
36. Wer rief dich denn? [1:07]
37. Was soll der Zorn, mein Schatz [1:28]
38. Nun lass uns Frieden schliessen [1:51]
39. Nicht länger kann ich singen [1:14]
40. Schweig einmal still [1:02]
41. O wüsstest du, wie viel ich deinetwegen [1:19]
42. Verschling’ der Abgrund meines Liebsten Hütte [1:23]
43. Selig ihr Blinden [2:02]
44. Wir haben Beide lange Zeit geschwiegen [2:14]
45. Wie viele Zeit verlor ich [1:43]
46. Ich hab in Penna einen Liebsten wohnen [1:04]

Performer details
Joan Rodgers (soprano) (1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 18, 20, 22, 24, 27, 30, 31, 34, 35, 36, 40, 42, 44, 46)
Roderick Williams (baritone) (remaining tracks)


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