WORKS: An die ferne Geliebte; Adelaide
PERFORMER: Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone), Imogen Cooper (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 454 475-2
Most singers treat Haydn’s songs, if they treat them at all, as warm-up acts to meatier Romantic fare. Not so Wolfgang Holzmair, who gives them pride of place in this new recital and, abetted by the wonderfully sentient playing of Imogen Cooper, sings them with an eloquence and conviction that make you wonder why most of them remain so little known. In the clutch of German settings he judges perfectly the humour of ‘Lob der Faulheit’ and the mildly risqué ‘Die zu späte Ankunft der Mutter’; and with his plangent, tenorish timbre and fine-spun legato he makes something very touching of the Schubertian ‘Trost unglücklicher Liebe’. The London canzonets, sung in clear, virtually accent-free English, are equally vivid.
If Holzmair underplays the erotic charge of Mozart’s ‘An Chloe’, he gives a gentle, unaffected account of ‘Das Veilchen’, and an unusually personal reading of the little masonic cantata ‘Die ihr des unermesslichen Weltalls’, with its shades of Die Zauberflöte. As for Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte, other singers, including Fischer-Dieskau and, most recently, Stephan Genz, have brought to the music a sappier, more sensuous tone and a greater sense of ardour and immediacy. But Holzmair’s more restrained reading, suffused with melancholy tenderness and, in the second and final songs, a haunting inwardness, is certainly convincing on its own terms. Here, as ever, Cooper is an ideally sympathetic partner, timing and colouring unerringly the crucial piano links between the songs. In sum a highly desirable disc, above all for some revelatory Haydn performances. Richard Wigmore