Stephan Loges: Nature's Solace
Stephan Loges’s recent appearances on disc have been largely in oratorio and earlier Lieder (by Mendelssohn), but here he offers some substantial Lieder-singing in a programme recorded in two parts – Schumann’s Kerner songs in autumn 2017; the Brahms and Kilpinen four and a half years earlier. He is a trusty guide, using the text intelligently and without exaggeration, and the voice is sturdy and reliable.
I mention the gap between recording sessions since to me Loges sounds a tad more tightly focused in the songs recorded earlier. This might also be due to the greater demands of Schumann’s Op 35 cycle, which launches in with the turbulent ‘Lust der Sturmnacht’ and then calls for a steadiness of tone in the cantilena of ‘Stirb, Lieb’ und Freud’’ that Loges can’t quite ideally manage. He has to push in the top notes of ‘Stille Tränen’, and elsewhere I miss the honeyed tone others bring to, say, ‘Alte Laute’. This is a sensitive, touching account of this great cycle, with Iain Burnside offering fine piano-playing, but it’s difficult not to recall other favourite recordings: the supreme poetry of Wolfgang Holzmair and Imogen Cooper, for example, or, for sheer vocal beauty, the young Andreas Schmidt with Rudolf Jansen (DG, 3/95 – nla).
The coupling offers a great deal, though, not least in welcome appearances of a handful of songs by the ‘Finnish Schubert’, Yrjö Kilpinen (1892-1959). Though he remains compromised by questions about his political affiliations, as Natasha Loges acknowledges in the booklet, these settings of Hesse are often striking: a stern, almost cool musical language that occasionally – as in the tender ‘Ich fragte dich’ and the close of the memorable ‘Vergänglichkeit’ – melts to offer lyrical warmth. Loges and Burnside make a persuasive case.
They are similarly persuasive in Brahms’s Op 94 Lieder, with Loges bringing impressive gravitas – of manner as well as voice – to ‘Mit vierzig Jahren ist der Berg erstiegen’, and a touching tenderness to ‘Sapphische Ode’.