Wolfgang Holzmair & Imogen Cooper: Songs by Schumann & Reimann
Wolfgang Holzmair made his Wigmore Hall debut in 1989. He has recently retired from the recital platform, and this disc of Schumann songs flanking Aribert Reimann’s Expressionist Nachtstück cycle of 1966 comes as a fitting tribute to one of the most magnetic of baritones. The programme was recorded live at the Wigmore Hall in December 2010 and includes selections from Schumann’s Op 39 Liederkreis together with settings of Heine and Kerner. One only has to listen to ‘Mondnacht’ from Liederkreis to appreciate the way that Holzmair could, with such seemingly effortless control of breath and lyrical line, float Eichendorff’s text of tenderness and tranquillity. Imogen Cooper provides a judiciously proportioned accompaniment, supportive, sensitive and supply responsive both to the mood of the song and to Holzmair’s interpretation of it.
In a contrasting region of the expressive spectrum, Heine’s ‘Die beiden Grenadiere’ draws from Holzmair a whole range of vocal inflection to characterise the stoicism, pain, resignation and defiance of the two defeated soldiers, Cooper’s piano-playing again finding just the right emphasis and rhythmic pulse. The five songs of Reimann’s Nachtstück act as a compelling 20th-century foil to the Schumann, illustrating Reimann’s imaginative, complementary creative impulses in conjuring up the imagery of Eichendorff’s poems. The vocal line and piano achieve a delicate synthesis that Holzmair and Cooper interpret with the utmost subtlety. Two perfectly formed Schumann encores cap a recital that brings together two artists who are in complete harmony with the repertoire and with one another.