Haydn, Schumann, Schubert, Wolf & Strauss

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Haydn,Schubert,Schumann,Wolf & Strauss
LABELS: BBC Legends
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Janet Baker
WORKS: Arianna a Naxos; Frauenliebe und -leben
PERFORMER: Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano), John Constable, Geoffrey Parsons, Paul Hamburger (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BBCL 4049-2 ADD
More textless wonders from BBC Legends. This time, though, one can almost forgive the series’ persistent omission of song texts on the grounds of the compensatory excellence of Alan Blyth’s accompanying essay – and, of course, the characteristically superb compilation of archive material. These recordings, from 1968-70, were made in Janet Baker’s prime, and they reveal the miracle of her deeply considered penetration of every song fused with an ardent immediacy of communication. And, for the first two works, there’s the palpably live atmosphere of the Snape Maltings, too, a place which inspired Baker’s artistry and where she, in turn, inspired generations of colleagues and audiences.

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Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos moves from a barely-breathed mezza voce to Baker’s distinctive vein of ardent yearning. And this Frauenliebe und -leben, accompanied by Geoffrey Parsons, is surely the finest recording of Schumann’s cycle Baker ever made, capturing the most elusive vocal colours and every tremulous pulsing of the soul.

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Finally, this BBC Legend celebrates that of Janet Baker as Lieder-singer supreme. Here, in a BBC studio recording from 1968, we hear her incomparably sentient performance of Schumann’s ‘Meine Rose’; here, too, her Wolf ‘Die ihr schwebet’, in which Paul Hamburger joins Baker in recreating the surging of the wind through the palms and anxiety through the spirit in the Virgin Mary’s unquiet lullaby. And – the greatest wonder of all – Strauss’s ‘Morgen!’, where the song rises in a single impulse from the voice and from the luminescent clarity of Hamburger’s piano-playing.