Nachtigallen schwingen, Op.6/6; Verzagen, Op.72/4; Lerchengesang, Op.70/2; Nicht mehr zu dir zu gehen, Op.32/2; Űber die Heide, Op.86/4; Wie rafft’ ich mich auf in der Nacht, Op.32/1; An eine Äolsharfe, Op.19/5; Auf dem Kirchhofe, Op.105/4; Von ewiger Liebe, Op.43/1; An die Nachtigall, Op.46/4; O kühler Wald, Op.72/3; Es schauen die Blumen, Op.96/3; Nachtigall, Op.97/1; Feldeinsamkeit, Op.86/2; Nachtwandler, Op.86/3; Abenddämmerung, Op.49/5
Simon Keenlyside (baritone) & Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Recorded 7, 8, 11 & 12 April 2009 in Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK
Reviewed by: Melanie Eskenazi
Reviewed: November 2009
CD No: SONY CLASSICAL 88697566892
Duration: 77 minutes
Recordings of “Dichterliebe” practically grow on trees, but how many do you listen to? It may surprise readers to know that once was enough for me when it came to the Goerne/Ashkenazy reading, in which pianist and singer seem to be performing completely different works, and I rarely pick up the Quasthoff version unless I feel like being hectored. Until the present recording, it was always Fischer-Dieskau, but Simon Keenlyside’s caution in not rushing to record the cycle has paid off, since he brings to the music a combination of thoughtfulness and directness which make his interpretation amongst the best around – and he is fortunate in having Malcolm Martineau’s pianism, which supports and deepens his singing, rather than undermining it as Ashkenazy does with Goerne.
The slightly husky, astringent quality of Keenlyside’s tone is ideally suited to these most full-blown romantic songs, allowing him to give full rein to the emotional outbursts yet still retain a sense of inwardness and restraint. From the first line of ‘Im wunderschönen Monat Mai’ the tone is set – manly without being too muscular, poetic without being maudlin, and always finely interwoven with Martineau’s playing, which scrupulously observes the composer’s wishes and never pushes itself too far into the foreground.
Keenlyside is at his best in the quieter, more-tender songs, especially ‘Hor’ ich das Liedchen klingen’ where his delivery of “Mein übergrösses weh” is poignant without being mawkish. The more tempestuous songs are well served however, ‘Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome’ being especially vivid. Particularly important is how a singer takes the crucial final stanzas of the penultimate song, and Keenlyside does not disappoint, with just enough pressure on words such as “dorthin” and “selig” to hit the emotional targets, but without any undue histrionics at “Ach! Jenes Land der Wonne”.
The first half of the disc is devoted to Lieder by Brahms, amongst which there are striking performances of ‘Nachtigallen schwingen’, the high-flying lines of which find Keenlyside at his most exposed, yet he compensates with supple phrasing and expression; ‘Von ewiger Liebe’ which comes close to Fischer-Dieskau’s intensity; and ‘Abenddämmerung’ in which voice and piano meld with touching grace.
From the very first phrase, you can hear that this is not a recording made in a dedicated studio (if one made under studio conditions), in that the overall sense is of a vast echoing space with pockets of intimacy – in fact it was made in Potton Hall, which perhaps suits the voice more than the piano with its expansive echo and sometimes subdued feel. Translations and booklet note are commensurate with the quality of the performance, and anyone wanting strong but not overwhelmingly individual versions of this music should not hesitate – the singing doesn’t enrapture as much as Goerne’s, but the playing doesn’t irritate as Ashkenazy’s does.