Wolf: Mörike-Lieder

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COMPOSERS: Wolf
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
WORKS: Mörike-Lieder
PERFORMER: Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone), Imogen Cooper (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: WHLive 0029

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‘I am as if drunk, led astray – O Muse, you have touched my heart!’ The opening song of this recital is a perfect emblem for the heady ardour with which Wolf composed no fewer than 53 settings of Mörike’s poetry within nine months.

Wolfgang Holzmair and Imogen Cooper chose 26 (plus one encore) for their Wigmore Hall programme – moving from the droll humour and irony of songs about drunken poets and loveless weddings, to the wonder of ‘Der Gärtner’ and ‘Er ists’.

In these two verdant songs, Holzmair’s light baritone is as fresh and fragrant as a Grinzing wine. And the gentle, tremulous vibrato, so characteristic of his voice, gives special presence to ‘Schlafendes Jesuskind’ and ‘Gebet’.

Holzmair is at his best in those settings which reveal the soul’s innermost questionings; he and Cooper capture the fragile ardour of ‘Frage und Antwort’, and the chromatic unease within ‘Im Frühling’.

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For the more dramatic side of Wolf’s tormented psyche, try Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s more red-blooded and impassioned performances with Gerald Moore (EMI). Their ‘Der Feuerreiter’ leaves Holzmair in the shade, though the accoustic of these early recordings leaves much to be desired. Hilary Finch