Schumann • Wolf • Korngold • Mahler
Simon Keenlyside’s outstanding recording of Schumann’s Kerner Lieder is a hard act to follow. But Roderick Williams now offers healthy competition in this eloquent performance, recorded live at Wigmore Hall in February 2011.
Williams might not have Keenlyside’s vocal strength and drive – and there are times when you feel that his fine accompanist, Helmut Deutsch, is ready to take him still further into the dark, wounded subconscious of both Justinus Kerner’s poetry and Schumann’s remarkable settings. But Williams does capture the special aura of these songs: the sense of a wondering, fragile sensibility is communicated to us through his characteristic loving attention to words – and to the presence of his audience.
This intimacy of communication and word-liveliness also makes bright vignettes of six love songs, sacred and profane, from Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook. There’s a nice frisson of nocturnal seduction in the songs of serenading; and there are love songs, too, weighed down by a consciousness of mortality. Williams and Deutsch are alert to every quicksilver mood-change.
In this rewardingly balanced recital, they also relish the bittersweet harmonic palette of Korngold’s Four Songs of Farewell, and articulate vividly the whimsy and melancholy within Mahler’s folk-poetry settings from Des Knaben Wunderhorn.