Wolf: Eichendorff-Lieder; Mörke-Lieder; Goethe-Lieder

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COMPOSERS: Wolf
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Wolf
WORKS: Eichendorff-Lieder; Mörke-Lieder; Goethe-Lieder
PERFORMER: Ian Bostridge (tenor), Antonio Pappano (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 342 2562

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If Hugo Wolf is still something of a distant figure for you, then this latest select anthology of his songs should certainly bring them into close focus – which is exactly where they should be. The spacious, yet intimately live presence of the recording; the bold and intensely imagined piano playing; and the sense of excited encounter with music and text – all make this disc irresistible, either as an introduction to Wolf, or as a refresher course for those who think that they know it all. Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano bring out the best in each other – and in Wolf himself. Most of the space is devoted to 17 settings of the Swabian poet, Mörike. In his eloquent introductory essay, Bostridge speaks of Wagner’s influence on Wolf – of the ‘endless melody, without the endlessness.’ It’s this Wolfian paradox of aching expansiveness and miniaturism which Bostridge and Pappano capture so well in songs like ‘An die Geliebte’ and ‘An den Schlaf’. For five settings of Eichendorff, Pappano mingles tints and tones to support Bostridge’s long vowels in ‘Nachtzauber’, a moonscape typical of this poet. And in two concluding Goethe songs, physical drollery and metaphysical ecstasy are nicely juxtaposed in ‘Gutmann und Gutweib’ and in ‘Ganymed’. Hilary Finch