Marschner: Songs & Ballads

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COMPOSERS: Marschner
LABELS: Koch Schwann Musica Mundi
WORKS: Songs & Ballads
PERFORMER: Steven Kimbrough (baritone), Dalton Baldwin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 3-6742-2
Besides being one of the best-known opera composers of his time, Heinrich Marschner (1795-1861) wrote more than 420 songs. However, in inverse relation to his contemporary, Franz Schubert, Marschner’s solid theatrical skills as a stage composer were not matched by a comparable genius for song. None the less, this selection of love songs and ballads gives ample evidence of his dramatic flair and expressive flexibility in strophic form.

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Steven Kimbrough’s carefully modulated vocalisation, ever scrupulously supported by Dalton Baldwin’s subtly nuanced piano accompaniments, presents aptly characterised readings of each piece. So, one sympathises with the lover in ‘Trennung’, responds to the lake’s hypnotic waters in ‘Der Fischerknabe’, is charmed by the gentle swing of Serenade, and enjoys the last laugh in ‘War eine Ratt’ im Kellernest’.

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Closely focused recording emphasises this duo’s keen attention to textual detail and mood. But greater warmth and acoustic space would have enhanced the atmosphere in songs such as ‘O kühler Wald’, ‘Die sieben Freier’ and ‘Nachtgesang’. And, notwithstanding their generally meticulous approach, greater spontaneity would surely render more persuasively the declarations of undying love in ‘Treu, süsses Mädchen’, the colouristic harmonies of ‘Er liebt und reitet fort’, and the sustained reverential tone of ‘Ave Maria’. Nicholas Rast