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MOZART, Haydn & Beethoven Lieder
Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone) & Imogen Cooper (piano)
Philips Classics 454 475-2 79' 30"

This generously filled CD starts with the advantage that Wolfgang Holzmair is one of the best young Lieder singers now before the public, and he has an established partnership with the admired pianist Imogen Cooper, which has yielded some fine Schubert performances. This collection becomes immediately uncompetitive and difficult to recommend, because Holzmair's sung English is not adequate for Haydn's English Canzonets, of which eight are included. For those, the unsurpassed Britten/Pears performances come to mind first, though they appear not to be in the catalogue just now? Holzmair's Mozart troubled me, because the lower keys for baritone darkened the accompaniments inevitably and Imogen Cooper's way with it is all too generalised, with a warm, modern grand piano tone. This is early lieder singing which turns its back on newer insights about performing music of the period.

That it is perfectly possible to suggest the right keyboard style on a modern piano is shown by Mitsuko Shirai and her husband Hartmut Holl, whose recording of Mozart songs, 21 of them, show him as a song writer to be more interesting than you might expect; delightful [Capriccio 10 098 * * * * *].

Their several Lieder recordings for Capriccio, which have a pride of place in my collection, are distinguished by finding a different manner and tone (in voice as well as accompaniment) for each composer they tackle.  

Twenty minutes of Beethoven (Adelaide & An die ferne Geliebte) from Holzmair & Cooper does not make up for the limitations already indicated. Nor does their performance of An die ferne Geliebte, the first important song cycle, composed to be played continuously, which should give a feeling of cumulative urgency and intensity, quite lacking here. The voice is beautiful throughout; the recording seems to eliminate any possible hard edges, and Cooper over-pedals to my taste.



Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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