Sophie Karthäuser and Eugene Asti Perform Songs by Wolf

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COMPOSERS: Wolf
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Wolf
WORKS: Kennst du das Land? Goethe-Lieder – Mignon I-IV, etc; Mörike-Lieder – selection; Lieder für eine Frauenstimme – selection; Verschwiegene Liebe 
PERFORMER: Sophie Karthäuser (soprano), Eugene Asti (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902245

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The title song of this CD is placed centrally in what is a classic, mixed, hour-long Wolf recital, introduced and inspired by the figure of Goethe’s exiled and traumatised waif-child, Mignon, from his novel Wilhelm Meister. The chosen settings of Wolf’s other major literary muse, the Swabian poet Eduard Mörike, also seem to focus on a Mignon-like vulnerability and fragile sensibility.

Although Sophie Karthäuser’s soprano lacks a wide range of colour and depth of character, she is sensitive to Wolf’s sour-sweet, ever-shifting harmonies, and the raw nerves of the melodic line as it responds to the verse. And she is warmly supported by every nuance of accompaniment delineated in Eugene Asti’s piano playing. She brings bright verbal agility to Mörike’s childlike ‘Mausfallen-Sprüchlein’, and ‘Elfenlied’, and Asti energises her rhythmically sprung lines of spring in ‘Frühling übers Jahr’. An angry irony weighs down her words for the loveless wedding of ‘Bei einer Trauung’, and her soprano thrills and quivers through the erotic terror of the ‘Erstes Liebeslied eines Mädchens’.

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This anthology of uneasy springs, lovers’ twilights, innocence threatened and experience mourned would make a good introduction for a newcomer to Hugo Wolf, while not necessarily providing deeper insight for the experienced listener. Hilary Finch