Wigmore Hall Live – Wolfgang Holzmair & Imogen Cooper: Hugo Wolf Mörike Liederbuch

0 of 5 stars

Mörike Liederbuch: Auf einer Wanderung; Der Tambour; Denk’es o Seele!; Der Gärtner; Auf eine Christblume II; Der Feuerreiter; Peregrina I; Peregrina II; Um Mitternacht; Jägerlied; Schlafendes Jesuskind; Frage und Antwort; Fussreise; In der Frühe; Im Frühling; Lied eines Verliebten; Lebe wohl; An die Geliebte; Nimmersatte Liebe; Elfenlied; Gebet; An den Schlaf; Er ists; Zur Warnung; Bei einer Trauung; Begegnung; Selbstgeständnis

Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone) & Imogen Cooper (piano)

Recorded 19 February 2008 in Wigmore Hall, London

Reviewed by: Melanie Eskenazi

Reviewed: September 2009
Duration: 73 minutes



This latest in the Wigmore Hall’s series of recordings brings together one of the great Lieder partnerships, that of baritone Wolfgang Holzmair and pianist Imogen Cooper in a Hugo Wolf recital. There are more dramatic readings of the songs available, but it’s difficult to imagine a closer collaboration between musicians.

The settings here are all to texts by Eduard Mörike. The recital begins with a carefully crafted, subtle version of ‘Auf einer Wanderung,’ the closing lines phrased intelligently rather than rapturously as you would find with Fischer-Dieskau or Goerne. This subtlety and restraint is a feature of Holzmair’s singing throughout, and it tends to leave Cooper to supply the more tumultuous, passionate side of Wolf’s Wagnerian fusion of words and music – it’s a different kind of union to that of, say, Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore, who seemed to breathe as a single entity; Holzmair and Cooper give us instead two sides of a very contrasting coin.

This isn’t to say that Holzmair lacks fervour when required – ‘Der Feuerreiter’ is suitably devilish, and the close of ‘Peregrina 1’ supplies just the right amount of obsession in “den Tod im Kelch der Sünden”, but Holzmair’s respect for the marking of innig is not quite followed through in ‘Peregrina II’ in which Wolf requires the singer to interpret the music sehr innig – Holzmair’s phrasing of the agonising memories is almost matter-of-fact as opposed to the “breaking out in sobs’ of the poem”. The tension, unbridled passion and pathological intensity are all supplied by Cooper’s playing, which equals that of Moore in its sensual exploration of Wolf’s lines.

Holzmair is at his best in the more lyrical moments such as in ‘Schlafende Jesuskind, singing the lullaby most beautifully, and ‘An die Geliebte’ in which the first stanza is probably the finest performance on the disc, “Des Engels, welcher sich in dir verhüllt” phrased with the natural grace and candour which are Holzmair’s hallmarks. The closing, more tempestuous lines are less successful until the last, with voice and piano as one in a rapturous “Ich kniee, ihrem Lichtgesang zu lauschen”, the words savoured as few other singers can.

This is a notable addition to the growing catalogue of superb titles in the Wigmore Hall Live series – the recorded sound is excellent and preserves the hall’s spacious intimacy, and Richard Stokes’s booklet note provides an appropriately elegant and erudite introduction to the composer and the songs.

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