BEETHOVEN Lieder – Genz/Vignoles
The 26-year-old Erfurt-born baritone Stephan Genz is in the first bloom of his youthful prime. His Schumann Liederkreis, Op. 24 (5/98) was the first recording to give serious warning of the distinctive lyric ardour and keen intelligence of his artistry; and now Beethoven’s setting of Goethe’s ‘Mailied’ (Op. 52 No. 4), with its lightly breathed, springing words, could have been written with Genz in mind.
Four more Goethe settings celebrate the great man’s 250th anniversary year. Roger Vignoles, Genz’s regular accompanist, contributes an irresistible bounding energy and even a sense of mischief to one of Beethoven’s most spontaneous yet subtle settings, ‘Neue Liebe, neues Leben’; and an elusive sense of yearning is created as the voice tugs against the piano line in ‘Sehnsucht’.
The six Gellert Lieder form the centrepiece of this recital: Beethoven’s song-cycle, An die ferne Geliebte, its grand finale. The intensity of Genz’s cry ‘Is there a God?’ in An die Hoffnung, at the start of the disc, gives some indication of the gravitas he brings to his firmly enunciated ‘spiritual songs’ of Gellert. Genz and Vignoles have here reinstated a number of the original verses omitted by Beethoven in the first printed edition, creating a greater sense of balance and proportion within the set.
The concluding song-cycle is quite simply one of the best performances currently available, surpassing the similar Gellert/Geliebte coupling from Olaf Bar, and itself surpassed only by the classic readings of Fischer-Dieskau and Schreier. Fresh and bright of tone, awe-filled and beautifully paced and scaled, Genz’s singing is modulated exquisitely from song to song by Vignoles’s sentient piano accompaniment.'