Wolf: Mörike Lieder

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Wolf
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Mörike Lieder
PERFORMER: Brigitte Fassbaender (mezzo-soprano), Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 440 208-2 DDD
This is the Mörike Lieder we have been waiting for. When Hugo Wolf turned to the poetry of Eduard Mörike in the 1880s, he worked with such total absorption that the 53 settings he eventually produced have a white-hot energy of response and a psychological depth unequalled in his output.

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Fassbaender selects just 25, but encompasses their entire world. With Thibaudet’s magnificent piano-playing she recreates their meditations and their dramas with an intelligence and commitment that few singers, save Fischer-Dieskau, have found before her. The harmonic breadth and freedom of vocal line which Wolf learned from Wagner enables the heart to wander far and wide: Fassbaender and Thibaudet find a truly Wagnerian ecstasy within the small scale of ‘Auf eine Wanderung’, and in the eye of the meteorological and emotional storm of ‘Begegnung’.

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Both the intimate mysticism and the ruddy-cheeked outdoor life of the poetry of Mörike, the Swabian pastor, are drawn out in Wolf’s music and recreated with new intensity in these performances. What is more, the music seems to be in just the right vocal and spiritual register for Fassbaender at this stage in her career. She shows a particular empathy for that elusive soul-mood between waking and sleeping which Wolf and Mörike knew so well, and no less skill in judging the macabre humour of the folk ballads. Hilary Finch