This major recording series reaches its fourth volume: across the projected ten issues a host of world-renowned singers draw listeners, decade by decade, through a century of song, from 1810 to 1910. Each issue presents a well-planned, varied programme performed by household names; overall the series also has a wider aim, building a comprehensive survey of song right through the nineteenth century and, in doing so, creating an invaluable teaching asset.
Whilst politically 1840-1850 was dominated by the build up to revolutionary explosion, musically the decade continued to produce an ever-richening seam of contrasting songs right across the continent. Headlining this volume is Schumann’s remarkable setting of nine poems by Heinrich Heine, Liederkreis, Op. 24; Germany is further represented by four wonderful Mendelssohn songs, France in works by César Franck, Russia by Dargomyzhsky, Italy by Donizetti (not straying far from his familiar operatic idiom), and Sweden making its series debut with songs by Lindblad, Josephson and Geijer. That eclectic composer list exemplifies the combination throughout the series of works both familiar and rare.
Distinguished baritone Florian Boesch takes pride of place in the Schumann cycle, backed by a strong supporting cast: sparkling Armenian soprano Anush Hovhannisyan makes a welcome return to the series, as does Russian baritone Alexey Gusev. Swedish mezzo Ida Evelina Ränzlöv and two younger British tenors, Oliver Johnston and Nick Pritchard, show their mettle, all deftly accompanied by the series’ creator, pianist Malcolm Martineau.
Of especial note are four fine Mendelssohn songs sung by Samuel Hasselhorn, already a major prize winner and now in the ensemble at the Vienna State Opera, whose rich voice and expressive yet diction-perfect performances mark him out as a baritone to watch.
Extensive presentation includes 64 page booklet with authoritative liner note in three languages by renowned song expert and series consultant Prof Susan Youens; full texts and translations are provided.