ALBUM TITLE: Im Schönen Strome: Heine Lieder
WORKS: Songs by Schumann, Liszt and Franz
PERFORMER: Christian Immler (baritone), Georges Starobinski (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-2143 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Though a neglected figure today, Robert Franz (1815-92) was a prolific song composer who rarely stepped outside his specialisation. Not as generously gifted nor as imaginative as the contemporaries linked with him on this disc, he was nevertheless admired by both: in 1843 Schumann arranged for the publication of Franz’s first set of songs, while Liszt later made piano transcriptions of a number of them, and even wrote a book about him. And with good reason: there’s a fluency and skill to his writing, and occasionally a surprising depth to works that are in almost all cases miniatures.
This disc collects together, almost as if in cycles, songs by Franz based on poems by Heinrich Heine, settings of whom account for about one quarter of his output. They stand up well in comparison with Schumann’s Op. 24 Liederkreis (also setting Heine) and a clutch of Liszt songs (ditto): Franz himself seems to have had little interest in the song-cycle as such.
The attractive light baritone of Christian Immler is nicely offset by the clean textures and musical sensitivity of pianist Georges Starobinski, both finely balanced and captured in lucid sonics; the collection as a whole might identify the difference between the talent of Franz and the genius of Liszt and Schumann, but the performers devote the same careful attention to the achievements of all three. George Hall