WORKS: Zigeunerlieder, Op. 103; Fünf Lieder, Op. 106 & Op. 107; Vier ernste Gesänge, Op. 121
PERFORMER: Juliane Banse (soprano), Iris Vermillion (mezzo-soprano), Andreas Schmidt (baritone), Helmut Deutsch (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CPO 999 840-2
CPO’s Brahms Lieder edition reaches the end of his acknowledged published works with this varied selection, comprising his solo arrangements of the Gypsy Songs, Op. 103 (originally for vocal quartet), two mixed sets (Opp. 106 and 107), and his greatest achievement in the genre, the Four Serious Songs. Andreas Schmidt tackles the latter, bringing a dark, brooding quality to the sombre gravitas of these moving reflections on life and death.
Elsewhere, this fine baritone has some pitching problems and shows some diminishment in his vocal powers that mars otherwise stylistically assured accounts of the two general sets, which nevertheless contain exceptional things: the downbeat ending of ‘Es hing der Reif’ is beautifully managed, and he brings a delicately coloured mezza voce (‘half voice’) to bear on ‘Meine Lieder’, both from the Op. 106 set. Juliane Banse’s two contributions to the Op. 107 set, the ‘women’s songs’ ‘Das Mädchen spricht’ and ‘Mädchenlied’, are both neat and appealing.
Iris Vermillion takes on the Gypsy Songs, her rich tone an asset, but her manner more hearty than spirited. Some warmth comes through, though these ebullient pieces need more freedom and vitality than she or accompanist Helmut Deutsch provide. Boxy, enclosed sound, with a flat, matt surface and not enough integration of voice and piano, doesn’t help. George Hall