Saturday, 4 January 2014

Hugo Wolf Spanisches Liederbuch new CD

The classic recording of Hugo Wolf's Spanisches Liederbuch is the version with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, with Gerald Moore. This new recording, Vol. 7,  the latest in Stone Records' Complete Hugo Wolf series is a refreshing contrast. The soloists, with all respect, aren't in the league of DFD or Schwarzkopf but they offer a very different perspective.

Wolf's Spanisches Liederbuch is far less immediately popular than his Italienisches Liederbuch, but to Wolf aficionados it is valuable because it shows Wolf entering a new creative phase. The collection, in its full 44-song version, is an imaginary panorama of "Spanish" culture, filtered through the Austro-German sensibility of Wolf and the poets Paul Heyse and Emmanuel Geibel. The ten Geistliche Lieder, on religious themes, are available on Volume 6 of the Stone Records complete Wolf series. This new disc focuses on the Weltlisches Lieder, the 34 songs of worldly love. The songs don't form a narrative. They function more as a kaleidoscope of scenes evoking life in a warm, exotic climate where lovers in perfumed gardens play tambourines and exchange secret glances: highly charged passions veiled in mystery and allusion. The Spanisches Liederbuch is dramatic in a more sophisticated way than Wolf's opera Der Corregidor, which incorporates two of the songs in the set, Herz, versage nicht geschwind and In dem Schatten meiner Locken, one of the most ravishing pieces in the whole art song canon. .

The "South" seduced German poets much in the way that exotic, oriental locales fired their imaginations, offering alternatives to sober, rationale propriety. Wolf's Italienisches and Spanisches Liederbuchs are his West-ostlicher Divan. Wolf was not Viennese but came from Windischgratz in what is now Slovenia.  He longed for Italy, but when his friends arranged for him to visit, he had what seems like a panic attack and could not go. Richard Stokes, in his notes for this disc, describes Wolf's interest in Spain. "Alarcón's ironic and somewhat  acid style appealed to Wolf, whose own letters bristle with sardonic wit". Wolf writes local colour into the music, though fundamentally the tone is his own, not touristic. 

One of the great delights of this recording is Sholto Kynoch's playing   He's one of the best song pianists of his generation, and Music Director of Oxford Lieder, but here he excels. Listen to the fluidity which he brings to Klinge, klinge mein Pandero: the notes dance brightly, capturing the way a tambourine suddenly changes direction as its sides are turned. Such freedom, and such fun! And in Geh, Geliebter, geh jetzt! the piano sparkles with wild ecstasy, returning to earth so gently that it feels the song may never end.  Four voices feature - Birgid Steinberger, Anna Huntley, Benjamin Hulett and Marcus Farnsworth, instead of the usual soprano /baritone format. This exchange animates the performance, which was recorded live in the Holywell Music Room. The Spanisches Liederbuch, especially with the Geistliches Lieder, which anchor the secular songs are quite an undertaking, which is why the collection isn't performed very often, except by artists of the standing of Mathias Goerne and Christine Schäfer. Using four voices lessens the pressure, and gives inner momentum.  The singing is energetic, which suits the nature of these "worldly" songs.  . This disc is released both in hard copy and as download.  Visit Stone Records for more detail.

1 comment:

Patricia Jones said...

As you say, the Spanish Liederbuch isn’t performed, or recorded, all that often. So it is intriguing that two recordings were released last summer, I think on the same day! Oxford Lieder’s fine contribution to its great Wolf project, as you describe, and also an Austrian recording (though on the American Bridge label) of both the Spanish and Italian song-books, on three CDs (one not full) . Birgid Steinberger reappears in the latter, singing some of the Spanish song-book secular songs; a young mezzo-soprano Michaela Selinger takes some of the Spanish religious songs and all the female roles in the Italian song-book, Wolfgang Holzmair sings throughout both books, and Russell Ryan and Georg Beckmann are the pianists. The arrangement of the songs in both books is highly effective, the Spanish song-book in particular having an interesting order. The recording started life as a series of concerts in Vienna, performed with visuals in the hope of attracting audiences unfamiliar with lieder - as with Kynoch’s Wolf project, the idea was to bring the songs to wider attention, but the means were rather different! DVDs are available from several outlets in Vienna, but the CD sound is a lot better.