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Hugo Wolf: Italienisches Liederbuch

Diana Damrau, Jonas Kaufmann & Helmut Deutsch (Erato)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Hugo Wolf Italienisches Liederbuch
Diana Damrau (soprano), Jonas Kaufmann (tenor), Helmut Deutsch (piano)
Erato 9029565866   76:10 mins

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Who can resist Hugo Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch? These charming miniature dramas from the 1890s showcase the composer’s emotional range through countless exquisite vocal and pianistic details. Paul Heyse’s lyrical translations from different regions of Italy present a succession of characters who are in turn sensual, ardent, tender, humorous, teasing, bored and reflective. As the composer put it, the songs’ ‘heartbeat’ is German, even if the sun shines ‘in Italian’.

The male characters are often lusty or amorous, but the female characters are sympathetic and varied. Diana Damrau evokes each scenario magnificently, savouring every word in a delightfully extrovert performance which sparkles and thrills. Slightly more subdued, Jonas Kaufmann offers an intimate and lyrical approach as an attractive counterpart. Helmut Deutsch’s experience with this repertoire is evident in his genteel, assured and measured performance, with exquisite soft playing. Deutsch really savours each programmatic touch, but I occasionally missed the vulgarity that these often rustic, rumbustious situations demand from the piano. Typically for his century, Wolf did not conceive of the 46 songs as a cycle. He expected that musicians would select and arrange songs according to the circumstances of the performance. The solution in this recital is to start and end with the original numbers, but to arrange the remaining 44 songs in between as four sequences. Each theoretically presents a narrative trajectory, but not one that I could discern. No matter; we’re presented with a welcome alternation of moods which beautifully showcases these musicians’ enormous expressive versatility.

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