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COMPOSERS: Brahms/Dvorak/Reger
LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Lieder; 13 Moravian Duets; Three Duets, Op. 111a
PERFORMER: Brigitte Fassbaender (mezzo-soprano), Juliane Banse (soprano), Cord Garben (piano)
With the news that Fassbaender has given up singing for directing, one might have expected a grander, more celebratory valediction than a gentle, rather esoteric collection of duets. But this recital, though distinctly low-key, is a treat. The young German soprano Juliane Banse, who studied with Fassbaender, is a singer of enormous promise, her voice limpid, delicate yet vividly expressive, and impeccably modulated, contrasting beautifully with Fassbaender’s gloriously rich and robust mezzo-soprano. Their accompanist Cord Garben is also outstanding: subtle yet supportive, intense but never intrusive.


The songs themselves are attractive, if hardly profound. Dvorák’s Moravian Duets, a collection of duets based on Moravian songs but published in German, are predictably folk-like settings of quintessentially Romantic tales of thwarted love and rural idyll. And the Brahms, using texts by Herder, Goethe, Mörike and, most effectively, given the duet form, a mother-and-daughter dialogue from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, cover much the same ground. Only Reger’s Three Duets really stand out as exceptional lieder, dark, atmospheric but ultimately rapturous pieces preoccupied, inevitably, with love, nature and the seasons, in which the writing makes brilliantly effective use of two voices, rather than simply contriving a dialogue or using them in tandem. Claire Wrathall