Wolf: Mörike Lieder

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COMPOSERS: Wolf
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Mörike Lieder
PERFORMER: Joan Rodgers (soprano), Stephan Genz (baritone), Roger Vignoles (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67311-12
Hyperion is a loyal champion of Hugo Wolf: first came the settings of Eichendorff and Goethe – and now of Eduard Mörike, the Swabian pastor-poet whose verse inspired music to pour from Wolf’s pen throughout 1888, and defined his character as a songwriter. All 53 songs are here, making this collection the most comprehensive currently available.

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Any re-creation of these works must seek out their uniquely Wolfian combination of freedom of inflection with specificity of response, expansiveness of idea and tautness of construction. And who better for the task than two young singers in their prime, and the masterminding presence of Roger Vignoles, whose virtuosity of technique and imagination constantly reanimates the symbiotic relationship between voice and piano in Wolf?

The fertility of their partnership brings set pieces like ‘Der Feuerreiter’ (Genz) and ‘Nixe Binsefuss’ (Rodgers) to thrilling new life. Stephan Genz finds a tremor of youthfulness and vulnerability within the strong focus of his baritone, bringing a warm breath of wonder to ‘An eine Aolsharfe’ and an impassioned yet awe-filled discourse between man and God to ‘Neue Liebe’. Rodgers, for her part, achieves that finest of balances between the melancholy and mawkish mischief of her songs, without any hint of coy self-consciousness.

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As Richard Wigmore pointed out in December, Fischer-Dieskau and Moore (EMI) are the obvious benchmark candidates in this repertoire. But, in the absence of a complete edition, supplemented by an Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, this important new recording, with its illuminating essays and commentaries, can stand proudly for the present and the future as a benchmark in its own right. Hilary Finch