COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams Mahler Pizzetti Duparc
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Invitation au Voyage
PERFORMER: Dietrich Henschel (baritone)Fritz Schwinghammer (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901875
Twenty or thirty years ago it would have been almost unthinkable to find a major German singer such as Henschel performing Vaughan Williams songs, let alone recording a whole cycle and on a Continental label at that. If the price of progress is that we must make the same polite allowances as Continentals have long had to make for slightly English-accented Winterreises and Nuits d’été, so be it. Because, really, this is well done, sung in generally fine English and with an expressive warmth that suits the moods of the Stevenson poems, questing and reflective. Occasionally, like his mentor Fischer-Dieskau – and that other non-native Anglophone Bryn Terfel – Henschel over-emphasises words; he doesn’t quite catch some subtleties – RVW’s Scottish cadences in ‘Whither must I wander?’, for example. Schwinghammer is likewise occasionally heavyhanded. But this is a good solid performance, excelled only by the best – Terfel and Martineau (on DG), and Sir Thomas Allen in the orchestral version (on EMI).
The rest of the programme, following the theme of travel, tests Henschel’s linguistic virtuosity in repertoire from the rare to the widely recorded. He sounds rather less interesting in the Pizzetti songs (but then so are they) and though his French is decent, he and Schwinghammer take the Duparc rather too weightily. In the Mahler he sounds at first very like F-D, but with an appropriately lighter, plaintive quality, less mannered. Altogether this is an enjoyable recital, but remarkable chiefly for Songs of Travel – which, unlike the rest, the French sleevenote writer still abandons to a native commentator…
Michael Scott Rohan