Wolf: Orchestral Songs: Auf ein altes Bild; Schlafendes Jesuskind; Bedeckt mich mit Blumen

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LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: Orchestral Songs: Auf ein altes Bild; Schlafendes Jesuskind; Bedeckt mich mit Blumen
PERFORMER: Mitsuko Shirai (mezzo-soprano), Josef Protschka, Christoph Späth, Kor-Jan Dusseljee (tenor), Oliver Widmer (baritone), Cornelius Hauptmann (bass), Hartmut Höll (piano); Württemberg Chamber Choir Stuttgart, Berlin RSO/ David Shallon
CATALOGUE NO: 67 091-92
A prime attraction in this early Nineties reissue is the only available recording of the operatic fragment Manuel Venegas, the last music Wolf wrote before his reason finally gave way. There is little evidence of the composer’s precarious mental condition in the 600 bars he completed in piano score, which include a charmingly melodious chorus in praise of spring and a fervent monologue in which the (ultimately tragic) hero Manuel hymns his native town. Tenor Josef Protschka does this impressively, abetted by the colourfully ‘orchestrated’ playing of Hartmut Höll, while Mitsuko Shirai gives an exquisitely tender, lulling performance of ‘Bedeckt mich mit Blumen’, filched by Wolf from his Spanisches Liederbuch. Manuel Venegas shares a disc with several more songs from the Spanish collection, sung by Protschka and Shirai with subtle understanding, true legato and a vivid palette of colour. Shirai is equally illuminating on the companion CD of Wolf orchestral songs, whether in the rapt meditation of ‘Auf ein altes Bild’ and ‘Schlafendes Jesuskind’ – surely two of the loveliest performances on disc – or the tormented ecstasy of Mignon’s ‘Kennst du das Land’, sung here in two, different (though both distinctly Wagnerian) orchestrations. The Berlin RSO gives decent rather than inspired support, redeemed by some alluring wind playing, not least in the delicate, shimmering orchestration of ‘Anakreons Grab’. Richard Wigmore