PERFORMER: Josef Protschka (tenor), Helmut Deutsch (piano); Mitsuko Shirai (mezzo-soprano), Hartmut Höll (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 10 446/47 DDD
A late fruit of the Mozart-Year harvest, this double album, recorded in 1991 but released well after that year’s glut, offers 88 minutes’ worth of the complete Mozart lieder. Josef Protschka’s tenor is, characteristically, plain-speaking and ruddy-cheeked, and his total lack of self-consciousness in either phrasing or voice production is tailor-made for the deceptively ingenuous ‘Das Veilchen’ and the buoyant songs of spring. The earthy sturdiness within his voice strengthens the simplest strophic song and elevates the hymns of the Masonic Brüderschaft; its conversational immediacy enlivens the piano-tracked ‘Die betrogene Welt’ and similar folksy songs of the Natural Man.
Where intensity and shapeliness of melodic line is the order of the day – in deeply felt aria-like songs such as ‘Sei du mein Trost’ and the positively Schubertian ‘Abend-empfindung an Laura’ – Protschka obliges, though sometimes less convincingly at the crest of a phrase. The voice, incidentally, is treated to a slight halo of acoustic resonance which may annoy some listeners.
Unfortunately, Mitsuko Shirai doesn’t get much of a look in, except as the eternal feminine presence in ‘Der Zauberer’ and ‘Die kleine Spinnerin’, and as the tut-tutting old lady of ‘Die Alte’. Her highly cultivated mezzo-soprano presence should have been made far more of an asset. Hilary Finch