WORKS: Lieder, Vol. 4: Opp. 47, 48, 49 & 57
PERFORMER: Juliane Banse (soprano), Andreas Schmidt (baritone), Helmut Deutsch (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 999 444-2
With few exceptions – above all the ever-miraculous ‘Wiegenlied’ – the songs in these four sets are not among Brahms’s most favoured. The predominant dourness of most of the Op. 48 group has always consigned them to the fringes of the repertoire, though the bleak ‘Herbstgefühl’ is a magnificent song, echt-Brahms in its despairing fatalism. Elsewhere the familiar Brahmsian themes of isolation, yearning and hopeless love are leavened by, say, the ecstatic nature music of ‘Von waldbekränzter Höhe’ or the overt sexual passion of the glorious final song of Op. 57, ‘Unbewegte laue Luft’.
Andreas Schmidt, who takes the lion’s share of the songs here, deploys his warm, mahogany baritone with his usual sensitivity and care for Brahms’s long, arching lines. The more sombre and pessimistic songs are often moving in their grave, dignified restraint; and Schmidt brings a fine controlled passion to ‘Unbewegte laue Luft’. Limitations come in numbers calling for sensuousness or charm – ‘Sonntag’, for instance, or the waltz-serenade ‘Der Gang zum Liebchen’, both too straight and severe here.
Soprano Juliane Banse has more temperament, as in her performance of the turbulent, almost masochistic ‘Ach, wende diesen Blick’ from Op. 57, but tends to develop an edgy tremulousness under pressure. Her exquisitely tender, candid ‘Wiegenlied’, though, almost disarms criticism. Helmut Deutsch, slightly backwardly recorded, is as ever a wise and sympathetic Brahmsian. Richard Wigmore