It is my practice when listening to some recitals to place a blob by any piece I want to refer to in my review. On this occasion I found so many of these performances profoundly satisfying that there was scarcely one that could be left out of the reckoning. With the justified revival of interest in Mendelssohn we have had many discs of his songs to enjoy, notably those by Barbara Bonney (Teldec, 2/93) and Wolfgang Holzmair (Preiser, 7/91), yet none has given me quite as much pleasure as this one. Taken together with Price's and Johnson's Forlane disc of Schubert (see page 94) it confirms them as a well-nigh ideal duo in this field.
The recital wholly dispels any lingering doubts there may be about Mendelssohn as a composer of Lieder. As RW points out in his perceptive notes, Mendelssohn surpassed even Schubert and Brahms in his understanding of Heine's Die Liebende schreibt and Brahms in Madchens Klage (Mendelssohn's only Schiller setting), whose urgent 6/8 rhythm and haunting mood is ideally adumbrated by his interpreters here. They catch perfectly the Loreley-like mystery of the Eichendorff setting, Das Waldschloss, and the depth of feeling in the late and great song, Nachtlied, another Eichendorff setting. Then there is Schilflied, a Lenau setting, whose plaintive note provokes a marvellous response from Price especially in the repeated ''In tiefem Rohr'', one of several key phrases that she so subtly underlines. Others are ''wie ich bebe'' in the impassioned grief of Gestandnis, another wonderful piece and reading, and ''so sauer fallt'' in the simple, sad Volkslied.
At the heart of the recital are the settings of Goethe. Besides Die Liebende schreibt the pair include the poignant Erster Verlust and the two Suleika settings, neither quite a match for Schubert's inspired versions but valid in their own right, particularly when sung with Price's uninhibited, Lehmannesque ardour—listen, for example, to the final verse of Op. 34 No. 4. Another facet of the performances, a free-ranging Schwung, can be he heard in Fruhlingslied and the familiar Neue Liebe.
The real discoveries here are the two Byron settings uncovered by Johnson. Mendelssohn understood and knew how to set English (''whose breast is gently heaving'' in the first, for example) and the accentuations here are wholly idiomatic. Sun of the sleepless is very different from but equally apt as Wolf's setting (in translation). Both are gratefully sung, crowning a recital with so many pleasures to offer. Hyperion may not thank me for saying that the German studio recording has more presence than their efforts in churches in Britain. Both singer and pianist are in the room with us, anxious and able to please. Put the disc down as a sure candidate for vocal recital of the year.'