WORKS: Lieder, Opp. 32, 72 & 94
PERFORMER: Thomas Quasthoff (baritone), Justus Zeyen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 463 183-2
Here’s a real cornucopia of deeply committed Brahms singing from three young German Lieder singers. The big-hearted bass-baritone of Thomas Quasthoff is immediately distinctive, and this recital shows the voice becoming ever more powerfully focused and authoritative. Perceptively partnered by pianist Justus Zeyen, Quasthoff penetrates the defining character of each group of songs: the dark shadows of hopeless love in Op. 32; the airborne Op. 72 and the mid-life crises of Op. 94. And the full range of his voice really comes into its own in the broader, more theatrical expanses of the Three Petrarch Sonnets which are the high point of his Liszt group.
Juliane Banse and Andreas Schmidt continue their exploration of Brahms in their welcome second volume of the Complete Songs presented, rewardingly, in Brahms’s own groupings. Schmidt’s is a more lyrical, fine-grained baritone than Quasthoff’s: where Quasthoff brings out the dark drama of the Op. 32, Schmidt reveals the yearning and intimacy of the songs, with some lively pacing within and between them. His voice is delightfully cast in the finely-nuanced love songs of Op. 19 which he shares with Banse: her ‘To an Aeolian Harp’ has a special fragile beauty. Hilary Finch