PERFORMER: Ruth Ziesak (soprano), Ulrich Eisenlohr (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 53278 DDD
Wolf might have had Ruth Ziesak’s voice in mind when he composed his little ‘Elfenlied’. This Austrian soprano, who has yet to give a major London recital, has a voice of such pure, bright focus, with a quicksilver imagination behind it, that the German-language pun in the figure of the elf and of the bell striking 11 rings out and springs to new life.
This song is one of 14 settings of the poet Eduard Mörike which are complemented by 11 of Goethe. Wolf immersed himself in one poet before going on to the next; and so do Ziesak and Ulrich Eisenlohr. It is the honesty of their responses to Wolf’s own which makes this disc so rewarding. Ziesak’s ability to recreate a sense of childlike wonder brings a rare degree of imaginative mystery to songs like ‘Der Gärtner’ and ‘Epiphanias’, which many a more experienced Wolf singer can overkill with coyness or theatricality.
Ziesak is particularly skilled in the detail of Wolf’s fleet-footed miniatures; but in the meditative ‘Anakreons Grab’ and in the rainbow arch of ‘Phänomen’ her voice feeds and sustains the longer lines of Wolf’s Goethe settings with no less art and ease. Hilary Finch