Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen; Rückert Lieder; Kindertotenlieder; Lieder und Gesänge (excerpts)

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen; Rückert Lieder; Kindertotenlieder; Lieder und Gesänge (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Stephan Genz (baritone), Roger Vignoles (piano)
The gentle spring reveille of ‘Frühlingsmorgen’ from Mahler’s Lieder und Gesänge shows Stephan Genz entering his fourth decade with all the light suppleness and ardour of his youthful recordings, but now with darker colours and firmer bass ballast folding into his baritone. His intuitive musical partnership with Roger Vignoles is as sentient and perceptive as ever; and together they uncover the dark, sensual mysteries of the late-Romantic response to the natural world both here and in the fragrant nostalgia of the Rückert Lieder. There’s a certain lack of intensity here, though, and it’s most noticeable in the two great song cycles, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Kindertotenlieder. Vignoles brings the bright colours and timbres of the orchestra to this piano-accompanied version, but Genz never quite achieves the ecstatic wonder of the wayfarer’s morning walk; and his erotic angst is more of a dull ache than a sharp blade of pain. Genz’s Kindertotenlieder is gravely understated with a sober, steady line of communication through beautiful legato singing. And, with an entire orchestra under Vignoles’s fingers, together they create a wonderful sense of storm-struggle at the end of this albeit small-scale, piano-accompanied performance. For Mahler’s original piano-accompanied versions of these cycles, rivals are thin on the ground. Thomas Hampson and Janet Baker have made fine recordings of the Fahrenden Gesellen, though Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s sheer span of imaginative intensity surpasses them both. For the Kindertotenlieder, Hampson is the only real competition and, in its highly charged concentration, his has to be the benchmark performance. Hilary Finch