Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

30 Lieder.
Frauke May (mezzosoprano) Bernhard Renzikowski (piano)
Arte Nova Classics 74321 75076-2 [61.25]

Sommernacht. Der gute Rat. Aus den Himmelsaugen. Verlassen hab' ich mein Lieb. Um Mittermacht bluhen die Blumen. Die Glocke des Glucks. Gebet. Winterahnung. Die Nixe. Gluck Abschied. Stelldichein. Sehnsucht. Morgen. Kindergeschichte. Der Himmel hat ein Trane geweint. Flieder. Gute Nacht. Ach Liebster in Gedanken. Am Dorfsee. Mein Traum. Lied eines Madchens. Schmied Schmerz. Mutter tote Mutter. Friede. Zwei Maschen. Gluckes genug. Darum Wiegenlied. In der Fruhe.

This is a welcome set of 30 songs, ten of which are receiving their world premiere recording and another the world premiere of the voice and piano version.

After Schubert, Reger wrote the most songs and they probably number about 300. His songs are very different from Schubert's in that his songs are more substantial not just pretty tunes repeated over and over with banal accompaniments although I have to admit that there are Schubert songs that are sublime. Reger's songs are not so immediate because they are not superficial.

I am sorry that the booklet does not give English translations of the texts but with my limited German I can see that Reger is simply brilliant at the marriage of words with music. It may be true to say that none of these songs are masterpieces but they all have a consistent quality.

Song recitals are, sadly, not popular. Most music lovers seem to go in for the big orchestral scores or piano music with fire or stirring choral works. The intimacy of lieder is not a priority with most people.

I have to say that Ms May is a super singer and this accompanist is the best I have heard in over forty years. The performances are very fine.

The only other reservations is that the songs are all mainly slow, or moderately paced in tempo and a contrast of some of his more lively songs may have been better.

Sommernacht is a wistful but strong song with a beautifully shaped vocal line and a superbly sensitive piano accompaniment. Der Gute Rat is a marvellous example of controlled humour. Aus den Himmelsaugen has a simplicity which adds to its charm and innocence, reminiscent of Schumann's masterpiece, A Woman's Life and Love. Verlassen hab ich mein Lieb is a wonderful song somewhat understated by the composer who is not out to show off but to caress and enhance Engel's words. Un Mitternacht is even more endearing. Die Glocke des Glucke has a marvellous innocence expertly captured here. Note the singer's magnificent velvet tone at the words Tiefe Glock meines Gluckes. Very evocative. Choice. Gebet has a simplicity but suffers from the Schubertian weakness of the piano playing the vocal line, but later, there are some telling piano figures. The closing vocal line is superb.

Winterahnung is a gem, immediate, memorable direct and beautifully executed. The atmosphere is perfectly caught. Die Nixe is another example of the telling low notes of this terrfic singer where the drama is caught . The demanding part for the piano is controlled. No show offs here and the result is simply first class. Gluck seems to have a vocal smudge at one point but it is a song that I did not know and so I could be wrong. What is clear is the singer's total commitment and these songs belie the unfair criticism that Reger's music is complex. Absehied is more animated but the control is such that it can only to be marvelled at. Stelldichein is immediately impressive with an infectious light-heartedness. Sehnsucht is another "velvet" song whereas Morgen captures the stillness of the early morning. This version may not have the prettiness of Richard Strauss or the sickly sentiment of Schubert. It is more serious and far more effective.

I could go on.

Gute Nacht is not a lullaby but a robust song. Mein Traum is truly exquisite and shows again what magnificent accompaniments Reger wrote. Nothing banal or academic here. Schmied Schmerz has a terrific piano part but all under control. Friede is deeply sensual and see if you can detect Offenbach in Wiegenlied.

Sadly this important disc will not appeal to the shallow music lover but, for me it is very welcome and I hope there are more Reger songs to come from this splendid pair.

David Wright



See also review by Peter Grahame Woolf

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