PERFORMER: Stephan Genz (baritone)Roger Vignoles (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67055
The East German-born Stephan Genz, still in his mid-twenties, brings an engaging voice and glowing dramatic sense to this desirable Beethoven collection. Some of the ballad-like songs undoubtedly suit his rich, warm, darkish timbres especially well (‘Klage’ – ‘Lament’, or the mournful ‘Vom Tode’); yet he relishes, too, the lively patter of ‘Neue Liebe, neues Leben’, which, with Vignoles’s lively accompaniment, takes instant flight.
The phrasing is nicely sustained, though Genz’s rather self-conscious, earnest delivery can be fractionally unsteady (chiefly in the descent to cadences, a slight overweighting of second syllables, the arching up towards higher notes, and scattered patches of chromatic detail).
Goethe’s ‘Es war einmal ein König’ and Gellert’s ‘Busslied’ both hint at the wider emotional range to which this young singer can aspire. His contrast between the end of Goethe’s poignantly pleading ‘Wonne der Wehmut’ and the lightly alert ‘Sehnsucht’ could not be more charming. True, one senses those gloomier timbres might be lightened to advantage (an exquisitely floated ‘May-Song’ cheerfully counters his unusually doom-laden launch to the An die ferne Geliebte cycle). Yet if the disc sometimes suggests a promising artist still just emerging, there is much here that is elegantly persuasive. Roderic Dunnett