Invitation au Voyage - Dietrich Henschel
The first German baritone to record Vaughan Williams’s Songs of Travel? Only in the occasional over-stressed syllable does Dietrich Henschel betray that English is not his first language. He and Fritz Schwinghammer bring the most attractive, romantic feeling to ‘Let beauty awake’ and the other reflective songs. Those devoted to Bryn Terfel’s account, or the John Shirley-Quirk (always my favourite), might consider Henschel a little soft-edged but on the whole I found it a convincing and satisfying interpretation.
In mood and style, with the strong influence of folksong, these 1904 settings have much in common with Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer from 20 years earlier and the two cycles make a fine contrast. We are more accustomed to hearing the Mahler with orchestra, but with piano accompaniment the singer can attempt more inward-looking effects. In particular, the opening of ‘Ging heut’ morgen über’s Feld’ benefits: while the piano part suggests the distant echo of the church bells, Henschel uses an exquisite mezza-voce at the words ‘Und da fing im Sonnenschein’.
The three Pizzetti Petrarch songs are intriguing. I can only find reference to one other recording of this early group by a composer whose music remains too little known. The middle song, ‘Quel rossignol che si soave’, is especially beautiful, laments from the ‘third circle’ providing the bridge
to the group of mélodies by Duparc. Henschel over-emphasises some of the ‘e’ endings but he is a fine actor, so the dramas of ‘La vague
et la cloche’ and ‘Le manoir de Rosemonde’ suit him perhaps more than the dreamy soliloquies of ‘Phidylé’ and ‘Extase’.
This four-language recital is something of a tour de force; the recording is excellent, with a sensible balance between voice and piano.