There is still great music to be found online. Melanie Eskenazi enjoys some Wolf.
The Wigmore Hall recital series may be over, but lovers of song have not had long to wait for consolation, in the shape of this enterprising all-Wolf programme, conceived by one of the new generation of accompanists and recorded in isolation during the lockdown. It’s one thing to keep in time when you are both on a stage, quite another to do so when you are miles away and reliant on headphones, but both accompanist and singers manage brilliantly.
The Italienisches Liederbuch is one of the most loved, if not one of the greatest, of all song collections, and as Keval Shah remarks in his entertaining introduction, it is best appreciated if you can transport yourself to a Tuscan village where everyone knows each other and there are many vignettes of both complicated and devoted love. Probably the best known of the current recordings is the Erato one with Diana Damrau, Jonas Kaufmann and Helmut Deutsch, although some of the more vintage among us might want to put in a word for the Schwarzkopf / Fischer-Dieskau / Moore version. This YouTube offering is no less engrossing and sympathetic, even though it is performed mostly by very young artists.
Wisely, the set is framed by one of the most experienced singers, Ailish Tynan, who gives sweet emphasis to ‘Auch kleine dinge’ without becoming too cloying, and provides a rousing finale with ‘Ich hab’ in Penna,’ full of bravado and accompanied by Shah with the kind of panache that would have you standing up and cheering in a ‘live’ performance. Roderick Williams is another of the ‘names’ in this project, and he shows the younger participants the way with ‘Ihr seid die Allerschönste,’ sung with unaffected tenderness. Kathryn Rudge’s characterful performance of ‘Wie lange schon’ provided the pianist with another witty nachspiel, this time imitating the teeth-grindingly awful playing of the violin by the ‘lover’ – very convincingly done!
“The Italienisches Liederbuch is one of the most loved, if not one of the greatest, of all song collections…”
Amongst younger singers or those less well known here, Theodore Platt’s beautiful tone in ‘Selig ihr Blinden’ and ardent phrasing in ‘Was für ein Lied’ stood out, as did Jóhann Kristinsson’s ‘Gesegnet sei,’ sung with real assurance. Rose Stachniewska is a name new to me, but I’m sure we will be hearing more from this young soprano, to judge from her neatly phrased and wittily characterized ‘Mein Liebster ist so klein.’
This most enjoyable performance of the Italienisches Liederbuch may be accessed anytime on YouTube, and in response you are invited to contribute to two charities close to the performers’ hearts, Help Musicians UK and Black Lives Matter UK.