Beethoven: An die ferne Geliebte; Six Lieder, Op. 48; Andante, WoO 57

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: An die ferne Geliebte; Six Lieder, Op. 48; Andante, WoO 57
PERFORMER: Dietrich Henschel (baritone)Michael Schäfer (piano)
Dietrich Henschel’s first Lieder recordings were more memorable for his fine, free high baritone – at times uncannily reminiscent of the youthful Fischer-Dieskau – than for any revelatory insights. But his interpretative gifts have sharpened and deepened of late. And he sings each of the songs in this thoughtfully varied programme (interleaving Lieder with three solo piano pieces) with a sense of fresh discovery and a vividly specific character. The impassioned operatic scena ‘An die Hoffnung’ is both elegant and heartfelt, with Henschel colouring his tone precisely in response to text and harmony. He avoids all trace of sanctimoniousness in a virile, exultant performance of ‘Der Wachtelschlag’ (where Beethoven inflates the tiny quail to grandly symphonic dimensions); and he acts wittily with the voice in a maliciously sardonic ‘Song of the Flea’. He and his accomplished partner, Michael Schäfer, opt for some unusually mobile tempi; and some might feel that ‘Adelaide’ needs more caressing tenderness – though Henschel’s highly strung performance conveys a real erotic charge in the closing pages.


The potentially dull Gellert Lieder are sung not as lofty hymns or sermons but with an intense personal fervour – as moving as Stephan Genz in his justly praised Beethoven recital (Hyperion), but with more varied colours and a more powerful resonance at the declamatory climaxes (why, though, is the order of the last two songs reversed?). Henschel’s An die ferne Geliebte is wonderfully spontaneous in phrasing and inflection, tremulously poised between stillness and urgency, dream and desire. Genz and, especially, Holzmair (Philips) give more rapt, inward performances; and their pianists find that much more luminous detail than Schäfer. But Henschel’s reading of the work takes its place among the most involving and beautifully sung on disc. Richard Wigmore