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Hyperion Records

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Watching the Geese by Paul Wilhelm Keller-Reutlingen (1854-1920)
Sotheby’s Picture Library
Track(s) taken from CDH55389
Recording details: February 2002
Tonstudio Teije van Geest, Sandhausen, Germany
Produced by Teije van Geest
Engineered by Teije van Geest
Release date: November 2002
Total duration: 12 minutes 3 seconds

'A fascinating recital' (Gramophone)

'It would be hard to imagine these virtually unknown songs better performed than here' (The Daily Telegraph)

'A very attractive programme … superbly controlled singing that goes right to the heart of Wolf's spontaneous response to the poetry' (International Record Review)

'[Genz] has a chocolate-honey sound, an ability to colour his voice with every shade of emotion, and a thrilling dramatic presence' (Classic FM Magazine)

'In sum, another top-of-the-line issue—confirming yet again that Hyperion has consistently the best production values in the business—and, for Wolf's admirers, another indispensable album' (Fanfare, USA)

'The programme is sung throughout with easeful tonal beauty; and Roger Vignoles is at his glorious best as he reveals the wonders of Wolf’s writing for the piano' (Musical Opinion)

'Stefan Genz aborde ces œuvres avec le timbre franc et agréable qu’on lui connaît' (Répertoire, France)

May to June 1878
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Wolf had first set Heine’s poetry in December 1876, when he was a student at the Vienna Conservatoire (he only lasted one year). He chose three poems from Heine’s Buch der Lieder, completing all three in five days. Two of the songs, Du bist wie eine Blume and Wenn ich in deine Augen seh’, are obviously in imitation of Schumann, even down to the enharmonic colouring of ‘Doch wenn du sprichst’ in the latter song. But in Mädchen mit dem roten Mündchen, there is more than a hint of the skill, as well as the originality, of the genius to come. With its scurrying piano part, it perfectly matches Heine’s repeated diminutives in a mood of happy infatuation that one also encounters in Mozart’s An Chloe.

By the summer of 1878, although the influence of Schumann was still strong, it was much more integrated. So much so that of the eight Heine songs he composed in May and June, Wolf collected seven into a Schumannesque little cycle titled Liederstrauss. The parallels with Dichterliebe are obvious, although now Wolf takes care to avoid any texts already set by Schumann. (Ich stand in dunkeln Träumen had of course been set by Schubert as Ihr Bild, and Mein Liebchen, wir sassen beisammen would be set by Brahms seven years later as Meerfahrt.)

Sie haben heut’ Abend Gesellschaft is that staple Heine situation, the rejected lover denied access to the revels at which his beloved is making merry. With echoes also of Schumann’s Andersen song Der Spielmann, the lover’s disgust is apparent in the distorted rhythms of the accompanying Ländler, which whips itself into a bacchic frenzy at the end. The most imaginative part of Ich stand in dunkeln Träumen is the piano prelude: dreamily it weaves a handful of chromatic fragments until the singer enters, when they coalesce into the main melody of the song. In Das ist ein Brausen und Heulen, Wolf takes the words literally: the piano itself roars and howls in a tremolando of alternating hands, a device (borrowed from Schumann) that Wolf would later put to good effect in songs like the Mörike Begegnung. Aus meinen grossen Schmerzen, too, is a perfect piano miniature, with tiny wings fluttering throughout the pairs of right-hand semiquavers. In the voice part there is a nice twist in the sharpened note on ‘Lieder’ at the end of the second line, and a Heine-esque resignation in the final cadence ‘Was sie im Herzen schauten’. Mir träumte von einem Königskind is an exercise in a sublimated folksong style (the 6/8 metre fitting the ballad mode perfectly), while Mein Liebchen, wir sassen beisammen again puts the imagery into the piano part, with its rocking bass and rippling right-hand demisemiquavers. The last song in this little cycle is an early example of one of Wolf’s favourite genres, the military miniature. With its bright little bugle calls adding spice to the veiled sarcasm of Heine’s text, Es blasen die blauen Husaren looks forward to songs like Sie blasen zum Abmarsch (Spanisches Liederbuch) and Ihr jungen Leute (Italienisches Liederbuch).

from notes by Roger Vignoles © 2002

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