No, not the complete Mahler settings of Des Knaben Wunderhorn, such as we’ve had from both Dietrich Henschel and Thomas Hampson; but a revelatory selection of other composers’ responses to von Arnim and Brentano’s 1805 collection of old German folksongs.
Baritone Wolfgang Holzmair is known for his tireless curiosity and enterprise in pursuing the highways, byways and intersections of Lieder – and this is one of his most irresistible expeditions. From Mendelssohn, who enjoyed the potential for fun and mischief, to Schumann and Brahms who tenderly set these miniatures in simple, uninterventionist style – and through to a rather unwise, proto-Mahlerian setting of Urlicht by one Joseph Suder (1892-1980) – Holzmair chronologically surveys 200 years of composition.
There’s Carl Loewe’s renowned and spooky Herr Oluf, real performance art, and treated as such by Holzmair and his accompanist Thérèse Lindquist. And darkness begins to close in when Zemlinsky gets his hands on the grotesquerie and menace of Das bucklichte Männlein, and when Schoenberg turns drollness to disquiet in his song Wie Georg von Frundsberg von sich selber sang.
Fascinating encounters, too, with the nostalgic and touching responses of two Austrian-Jewish émigrés, Kurt Weigl and Erich Zeisl. Holzmair remarks that two children’s songs by Robert Schollum (d.1987) seem to be the last settings any composer made. Who now is ready to add a 21st-century perspective?