WOLF Complete Songs Vol 5
The quality of sound in these latest discs in Stone’s Wolf series is wonderfully vivid and full of presence. As before, the formula is to present Wolf’s songs in logical groups sung by talented young singers with fresh voices. Presentation is first-rate, with full texts and detailed notes, often by one of the artists, preceded by an illuminating essay on Wolf by Mark Stone, the baritone who owns the label.
Vol 5 begins delightfully, with a group of seven settings of Heine with the title Liederstrauss (‘Song Bouquet’). Written when Wolf was still in his teens, they are obviously tuneful in a way almost echoing Brahms, except that already Wolf provides imaginative piano accompaniments more elaborate than Brahms might have offered. They are beautifully sung here by Daniel Norman. They end with a jolly setting in a swinging 6/8 before the baritone William Dazeley takes over with ‘Wo ich bin’, the first of 10 more Heine settings. Contrast is provided when Sarah-Jane Brandon joins the team in ‘Ernst ist der Frühling’, aptly fresh in a song about spring, finely controlled if with a limited tonal range. ‘Spätherbstnebel’, with its powerful climax, is more memorable. There is one more Heine song before a setting of Shakespeare, Bottom’s song from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Two Byron settings follow, ‘Sonne der Schlummerlosen’ and the vigorous ‘Keine gleicht von allen Schönen’, powerfully sung by William Dazeley. The last 11 songs on the disc are settings of Robert Reinick, starting with two memorable songs, ‘Gesellenlied’ and ‘Morgenstimmung’. The other Reinick songs include evocative settings such as ‘Frühlingsglocken’, ‘Liebesbotschaft’ and a Serenade, before ending, perhaps surpisingly, with a energetic hymn to the fatherland. Sholto Kynoch is an excellent accompanist throughout.
The second disc begins with 11 settings of Nikolaus Lenau, many of them very striking. ‘Frage nicht’ is a haunting song given here by the mezzo Anna Huntley, while ‘Meeresstille’ is nicely evocative. Later come two lighter songs, ‘Liebesfrühling’, lightly tripping, and ‘Frühlingsgrüsse’, pointedly sung by the tenor Benjamin Hulett. Rounding off the group is by far the longest song, ‘Abendbilder’, its nine stanzas varied to give an atmospheric impression of evening in all its aspects, well brought out by Marcus Farnsworth.
The final group on the disc is quite different: 10 sacred songs (‘Geistliche Lieder’) from the Spanisches Liederbuch. Most of them are settings of Paul Heyse, with all four of the soloists giving dedicated performances, made the more darkly intense by Kynoch’s accompaniments. Last comes ‘Wunden trägst du, mein Geliebter’, with the soprano Birgid Steinberger shading her tone beautifully. It represents a dialogue between a sinner and the Saviour, a form also adopted in the preceding song, ‘Herr, was trägt die Boden hier’, referring to Christ’s tears. Another splendidly wide-ranging selection of songs.