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Hugo WOLF (1860 – 1903)
see track listing below review
Werner Güra (tenor), Jan Schultsz (piano)
rec. November-December 2004, Reitstadel, Neumarkt Oberpfalz
No texts and no liner notes
HARMONIA MUNDI HMA 1951882 [64:19]
There are no really bad songs in Hugo Wolf’s oeuvre; maybe one or two that are less interesting than the others, but that is very much a matter of personal taste. Where do we find his very best songs? Again a matter of taste, I suppose. Eichendorff-Lieder, Goethe-Lieder, Italienisches Liederbuch, 3 Gedichte von Michelangelo – I love all of these but forced to make a choice I think it must be the Mörike-Lieder. On the present disc we find 23 of the best of these andthose who only need a superb sample of Wolf’s songs need look no further.
This does not imply that this disc contains the very best versions of these particular songs ever set down, but they are very good and they are now reissued at a very affordable price.
Werner Güra, who was 40 when these songs were recorded, has had an important career in several German opera houses, in particular in Mozart and Rossini roles, he has appeared in oratorios and the Bach passions. As a Lieder singer he is also in great demand. He has a fairly light voice, a typical Mozart voice if you like. It is beautiful, slightly reedy in tone, rhythmically alert, excellent when it comes to enunciation, tasteful and expressive. All this can be heard in his lovely reading of Fußreise (tr. 2). That he also has steel in his voice is evident from the powerful eruptions in Er ist’s (tr. 3) and even more so in Der Feuerreiter (tr. 21), one of the most awe-inspiring songs in the whole Lieder repertoire. No one can quite beat Helge Rosvaenge’s stupendous recording from the 1930s, but Güra is very good even so.
He may be more at home in the more poetic songs. Im Frühling (tr. 4) is both poetic and impassioned and he is so sensitive in Zitronenfalter im April (tr. 8), an old favourite of mine. Der Gärtner (tr. 9) is full of nuance and, as in Nimmersatte Liebe (tr. 13) he is so flexible to the shifts of mood. One must also admire his half-voice and the beautiful legato in Peregrina II (tr. 18) and Lebe wohl (tr. 19). The evergreen Verborgenheit (tr. 20) are enchantingly sung. The humorous Storchenbotschaft (tr. 22) is light and expressive and is followed by Abschied (tr. 23) with its hilarious waltz postlude. The piano accompaniments are splendid and the recorded sound ditto. So why hesitate? Well, the lack of any documentation – apart from the track-list – is a drawback. On-line it is possible to find texts and translations, for instance here:
Göran Forsling

Track Listing

1. Gebet [2:50]
2. Fußreise [2:31]
3. Er ist’s [1:21]
4. Im Frühling [3:56]
5. Auf ein altes Bild [2:38]
6. Der Genesene an die Hoffnung [4:36]
7. Auf einer Wanderung [3:14]
8. Zitronenfalter im April [1:53]
9. Der Gärtner [1:30]
10. Begegnung [1:18]
11. Der Tambour [2:40]
12. Jägerlied [0:53]
13. Nimmersatte Liebe [2:35]
14. In der Frühe [2:38]
15. Denk’ es, o Seele [3:33]
16. An die Geliebte [3:33]
17. Peregrina I [1:51]
18. Peregrina II [3:28]
19. Lebe wohl [2:14]
20. Verborgenheit [2:49]
21. Der Feuerreiter [5:20]
22. Storchenbotschaft [3:43]
23. Abschied [3:04]