Äneas Humm: Awakening
The Swiss baritone Äneas Humm is only in his early twenties – and arguably looks even younger on the cover of his debut disc – but clearly lacks nothing for talent or confidence. Certainly, releasing an album of demanding Lieder as you head off to study at Juilliard (he began his training there, with Edith Wiens, in September) is a bold move.
There’s a lot here that’s impressive but unsurprisingly also a sense of artistic work in progress, of a natural and instinctive performer whose voice and interpretations are still in their early stages of development. The voice itself needs to fill out, and currently sounds rather brittle and metallic, with the lower reaches underpowered and tremulous. There’s a lack of colouristic variety, too, without the veiled, seductive shades that the Berg and Strauss songs call for.
The performances are perfectly fluent and well trained but perhaps a little cautious, with Judit Polgar’s piano-playing coming up short on imagination and sparkle. Humm can’t quite sustain the broad tempo presented for ‘Die Nacht’, and it’s a shame that the pair choose such a low key for ‘Zueignung’, which, along with a rather plodding tempo, robs it of passion and excitement.
Humm nevertheless offers a highly persuasive ‘Traurige Wege’, the most substantial of the early Wolf songs here. But the pair are at their best in the four Hafis songs by Viktor Ullmann that conclude the selection. Here the young singer lets his hair down and offers real wit and flair in highly enjoyable and engaging performances.
Elsewhere on the disc he inevitably suffers from comparison with more seasoned singers. With time, though, he clearly has enormous potential to become a major artist in his own right.