Brahms: Complete Songs, Vol 1 – Opp 32, 43, 86 and 105 review – masterful and revelatory | Classical music

Over the past decade and extra, no Lieder recitals have given me extra intense pleasure than these by the tenor Christoph Prégardien. Although he’s now in his mid 60s, and his voice has inevitably misplaced a few of its former bloom and flexibility with age, this Brahms disc, recorded in 2020, confirms that the sheer intelligence of Prégardien’s performances, his immaculate diction and the right weight and color he offers to every phrase, nonetheless conjure revelatory interpretations from all the pieces he sings. The gathering sees the beginning of what Naxos plans to be an entire survey of Brahms’s songs. How a lot of the sequence shall be allotted to Prégardien isn’t clear, however with Ulrich Eisenlohr as his accomplice, the communicative energy and mastery of each nuance of this opening instalment make one hope that the pair shall be recurrently concerned.

(*1*)Brahms: Complete Songs, Vol 1 – Opp 32, 43, 86 and 105 album cowl. {Photograph}: Naxos

The 4 teams of songs cowl virtually 1 / 4 of a century in Brahms’s improvement, from the 9 songs of Op 32, accomplished in 1864, to the 5 of Op 105, which date to 1888. As Eisenlohr factors out in his very thorough sleeve notes, the poems that Brahms set are hardly ever of the very best class – in that respect he differed in his strategy to Lieder writing from his Nineteenth-century predecessors, resembling Schubert and Schumann; Gottfried Keller and Theodor Storm are most likely the very best identified of the writers represented right here. However every of those units mixes and matches materials from a wide range of sources: Op 32, for example, juxtaposes German translations of the 14th-century Persian lyric poet Hafez with poems by the early Romantic August von Platen-Hallermünde, whereas Op 43 features a textual content from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the folks assortment that Mahler would later discover so extensively.


Nevertheless lowly or mundane the phrases, although, Prégardien treats them with the respect he would give to a poem by Heine or Goethe, simply as Brahms extracts each morsel of that means in his settings. It’s honest to say that there isn’t any intrinsically nice music right here; what now we have, although, are excellent performances of all 24 songs, every the product of Prégardien’s craft and his lifetime’s expertise on this repertoire.

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There may be extra excellent Brahms from the clarinettist Michael Collins on the BIS label, with the 2 sonatas Op 120, which have been written for his instrument simply three years earlier than the composer’s dying. The release marks Collins’s sixtieth birthday later this month, and the sonatas present an ideal showcase for his creamy tone and excellent technical facility; Stephen Hough is the equally immaculate pianist. Their efficiency of the primary sonata, in F minor, is intense and really looking out, that of the second, in E flat, lighter and extra relaxed, whereas as a bonus they add Collins’s personal “adaptation” of Brahms’s A serious violin sonata Op 100, a extra profitable translation than one might ever think about.

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