Italienisches Liederbuch

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COMPOSERS: Wolf
LABELS: Challenge Classics
WORKS: Italienisches Liederbuch
PERFORMER: Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Julia Kleiter (soprano), Hilko Dumno (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CC72378

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‘My youngest children of the south’, Hugo Wolf fondly called them – the ditties of his Italienisches Liederbuch, no fewer than 46 supple and ever subtle settings of Paul Heyse’s own free translations of Italian poetry.

The melodic charm and harmonic quirkiness of these songs have made them favourites of both audiences and of performers, from Fischer-Dieskau and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, to Dawn Upshaw and Olaf Bär, to name just two pairings.

 Every pair of singers must decide whether to follow Wolf’s ordering of the songs, or to devise a narrative of their own. Christoph Prégardien and Julia Kleiter, the latest devotees of the Liederbuch, have devised a cunning and compelling scenario. They move from the lovers’ wooing, through to mutual worship, and on to humiliation and haughtiness, frustration and fear, ending movingly with peace and reconciliation.

They place ‘Auch kleine Dinge’ (‘Even little things can delight us’) – emblematic of this collection – as a centrepiece, ignoring Wolf’s intention for the song to form a little prelude. Both Prégardien and Kleiter (with their excellent pianist Hilko Dumno aiding and abetting) offer larger than life portrayals.

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Neither singer, though, falls into the frequent trap of trying just too hard to create a miniature drama. Prégardien, with his baritonic tenor, finds the measure of each passing emotion; Kleiter’s soprano offers both heartfelt sorrow and feisty riposte. Hilary Finch