Wolf: Lieder to texts by Heine & Lenau

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COMPOSERS: Wolf
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Lieder to texts by Heine & Lenau
PERFORMER: Stephan Genz (baritone), Roger Vignoles (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67343
Wolf and Wagner, Wolf of the Italian and Spanish Songbooks, Wolf and Goethe: recent scholarship and performance has been focusing on Wolf in his prime. So it’s good to have our ears opened at last to the teenage Wolf and his fervent adolescent love for the poetry of Heine – and for his first affair. The two together inspired him to settings not published in his lifetime, and hitherto only recorded with any comparable thoroughness by Fischer-Dieskau and Hartmut Höll. Stephan Genz, still only 30, brings youthful ardour to these little songs made from great sorrows.

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One of the disc’s delights is the opportunity it offers to watch Wolf’s imagination shaping his own take on already familiar Schumann territory – and finding his own voice. ‘Wenn ich in deine Augen seh’’ is still a sentimental second best to the Dichterliebe setting. But in ‘Ernst ist der Frühling’, Wolf’s distinctive subtle and supple bending of line and metre is deliciously caught in half voice by Genz. And Roger Vignoles brings a glistening pre-echo of the Italian Songbook to the starry light of ‘Sterne mit den gold’nen Füsschen’.

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Seven Lenau settings respond with less concentrated nervous energy to inferior verse; though the little twilight triptych Wolf fashioned into his Abendbilder has a becalmed beauty wonderfully recreated by Genz and Vignoles. Hilary Finch