Hugo Wolf Complete Songs Vol.3

COMPOSERS: Hugo Wolf
LABELS: Stone Records
ALBUM TITLE: Hugo Wolf
WORKS: Complete Songs, Vol.3: Italienisches Liederbuch
PERFORMER: Geraldine McGreevy (soprano), Mark Stone(baritone), Sholto Kynoch (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 5060192780116

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Live from the Holywell Music Room (yet, strangely, with every trace of audience presence and response erased), comes this third volume in Oxford Lieder’s valuable ongoing series of the complete songs of Hugo Wolf.

Now it’s time for the Italienisches Liederbuch. The collection, particularly close to Wolf’s heart, comprises settings of Paul Heyse’s German translations of Italian traditional love songs. Their caprice, petulance, solemnity, poignancy and drollery drew from Wolf some of his most piquant writing; and the catalogue bulges with vivid and distinctive characterisations. While some singers like to shuffle the songs around and invent their own narrative, Geraldine McGreevy and Mark Stone, accompanied by Sholto Kynoch, retain the order in which Wolf’s songs were originally published. And they start as they mean to go on: McGreevy brings a disarming simplicity to the ‘motto’ song of this cycle of miniatures (‘Even small things can delight us’), and Stone’s well-groomed baritone declares his love with directness.

This is neither the most stylish nor the most beautiful singing to be found in this repertoire (Christoph Prégardien and Julia Kleiter are hard to beat among fairly recent releases). I often long for more subtlety from Stone, more attitude from McGreevy. But their performances have a simple integrity about them, and are everywhere perceptively and intensely musically accompanied by Sholto Kynoch.

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Hilary Finch