Wolf: Italienisches Liederbuch

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Wolf
LABELS: RCA
WORKS: Italienisches Liederbuch
PERFORMER: Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Mojca Erdmann (soprano), Gerold Huber (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: RCA 772720

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Hard on the heels of the BBC Music Magazine Award-nominated Wolf Italian Songbook from the German tenor Christoph Prégardien and soprano Julia Kleiter, comes one from the baritone Christian Gerhaher and the young soprano Mojca Erdmann. In this collection, Wolf sets Paul Heyse’s free translations of Italian poetry: Prégardien and Kleiter order them into a winsome narrative of their own making, Gerhaher and Erdmann opt for the composer’s ordering. This provides less of a linear narrative, more of a collage of mood changes in an often poignant and potent musical sequence.

They begin, as Wolf wished, with the little emblematic song, ‘Auch kleine Dinge’ – ‘Even little things can delight us’ – with Erdmann’s soprano the epitome of grave innocence and simplicity. Her voice is lustrous and beautifully integrated throughout its registers. But she takes each song very seriously, and seldom allows herself the high spirits or half-smiles that lurk within the more fickle and elusive songs. Significantly, this performance ends with Gerhaher’s song of angry betrayal, omitting the final flourish of the flighty ‘Ich hab’ in Penna’ – the soprano’s little ‘catalogue’ song of her conquests.

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Gerhaher, now in his prime, is a delight throughout: robust in ardent adoration, nuancing his voice for the vignettes of lunar beauty, and darkening it for the moments of passing anger and frustration as the lovers wander in and out of each other’s emotional lives. Gerhaher’s regular accompanist, Gerold Huber, enlivens every miniature tableau with vivid piano playing. Hilary Finch