Mozart: Songs

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Joan Rodgers (soprano), John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Roger Vignoles (piano)
These are songs, not arias; indeed, they are Lieder. The idea that the ‘true Lied’ is a post-Classical invention can hardly survive Mozart’s polished output for voice and piano. The collection includes an Italian ariette ‘Ridente la calma’, probably a transcription if indeed it is by Mozart, and two enchanting songs in French. The rest demonstrates that there is more to Mozart song than ‘Das Veilchen’, and forms a collection fundamental to the Lied repertoire. Just as it does in opera, Mozart’s skill in limning an emotion in a single musical gesture grips the attention, once one is attuned to an intimacy which these artists clearly appreciate; the predominance of strophic forms is no hardship when the musically identical verses are clearly differentiated, though without exaggeration. The songs are shared with due attention to sex (‘An Chloe’ by the tenor, ‘Der Zauberer’ and Luisa burning love letters by the soprano), and are accompanied with proper sensitivity, the voices well forward. I could have used a little more humour and agony in the right places; measured, musical, word-sensitive, these performances do not capture every possible dramatic nuance. Nevertheless charm and elegance are unfailing and the set makes surprisingly good consecutive listening. Julian Rushton