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COMPOSERS: Dvorák/Mahler/Liszt
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Scene
WORKS: Gypsy Melodies, Op. 55/Des Knaben Wunderhorn (excerpts); Songs
PERFORMER: Gabriel Dobner (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 639 0840-2
The outdoor life, seen through the eyes of travellers and wanderers, then transmuted through the late-Romantic imagination, is the inspiration behind this thoughtful and satisfying programme of songs by Liszt, Dvorák and Mahler.


Gypsies first – and Liszt’s ‘Die drei Zigeuner’ reveals Gabriel Dobner’s one-man-gypsy-band of a piano accompaniment acting as a brilliant foil to the dark, smoky timbre of Cornelia Kallisch’s mezzo-soprano. For this song, and for the ‘Lorelei’, Dobner and Kallisch bring a near-Expressionist, febrile intensity to their visions; yet both hold Liszt’s two spare Goethe settings, ‘Über alle Gipfeln’ and ‘Freudvoll und leidvoll’, in admirably still equipoise.


Dvorák’s seven Gypsy Melodies are, in Kallisch’s simple, supple performances, very much songs her mother taught her. And with Dobner’s penny-plain accompaniments, the folklore roots of Mahler’s Knaben Wunderhorn songs push through strong and clear. Kallisch’s ‘Ich ging mit Lust’ is disarmingly direct, her ‘Zu Strassburg’ deserter’s song dark with sober regret rather than bitter anger. A little more wooing of her audience in ‘Rheinlegendchen’, and a smile or two in the little battle of wits between the cuckoo and the nightingale would not have come amiss; but it’s refreshing to hear these songs not burdened with expressive overload. Hilary Finch