LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Schlichte Weisen; Fünf neue Kinderlieder
PERFORMER: Frauke May (mezzo-soprano), Bernhard Renzikowski (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 92761 2
On the face of it, the notion of a vocal cycle by Reger entitled Simple Ditties seems something of a contradiction in terms, given the preponderance of so many lengthy and harmonically convoluted works in his output. Yet the 60 songs that make up this collection show the composer in a completely different light, revelling in the opportunities for demonstrating his lyrical gifts, and manifesting a touching sense of humour and sensitivity to word-setting that rival the finest composers in the genre.
While Reger’s melodic abilities could never match those of Schubert or Brahms, there are sufficient gems in this cycle to warrant regular exposure in the concert hall, not least the beautiful ‘Waldeinsamkeit’ and ‘Mariä Wiegenlied’, and the brilliant ‘Die Mutter spricht’ with its sly allusions to Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.
Frauke May has already made something of a reputation for herself as a Reger specialist in a previously released and highly praised Arte Nova disc (reviewed March 2001). Here, however, she is on more variable form, delivering many of the humorous songs with panache and strong characterisation, but demonstrating a worrying instability of intonation in the more sustained writing of such songs as ‘Das Wölklein’. Despite some outstanding playing from Bernhard Renzikowski, these momentary lapses only serve to dampen my enthusiasm for this world-premiere recording. Erik Levi