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Ann Murray (soprano) Roderick Williams (baritone) Iain Burnside (piano)

6 Songs, Op. 75
6 Songs, Op. 48
4 Ariettas and a Duet, Op. 82
8 Songs, Op. 52

Signum Classics SIGCD139 - 2CDs

Signum Classics has released two editions of Beethoven "Lieder und Gesänge" this year. Apart from the Op. 98 cycle, and a few such as Adelaide, the Beethoven songs used to be marginalised before Fischer-Dieskau featured them, as I recall, in a Festival Hall recital which caused a sensation. Nowadays, of course, intégrales are the fashion and Beethoven's, despite their variability, are all worth hearing if not essential for collecting (there are many folk songs of lesser importance).

The first, a twofer double disc, is useful and well produced, with good clear commentary and parallel texts in original languages & English translation. Track details can be accessed HERE.

It is highly recommendable for baritone Roderick Williams' contribution, but there are reservations about Ann Murray's. A favourite opera star and recitalist, she is no longer in as good voice as in her prime. Priced at one and a half Signum's usual price, it is a good buy.

John Mark Ainsley (tenor) Iain Burnside (piano)

Abendlied unterm gestirnten Himmel
La Tiranna
An die Hoffnung
Ruf vom Berge
Wonne der Wehmuth
Mit einem gemahlten Band
Gesang aus der Ferne
Die laute Klage
Der Wachtelschlag
An die Hoffnung
An die ferne Geliebte

Signum Classics SIGCD 145, 78 mins
[Recorded May 2008 at St. Paul's Church, Deptford]

More desirable is the sequel, available for purchase next month, a solo recital by John Mark Ainsley (tenor), also with Iain Burnside as pianist, which includes the song cycle An die ferne Geliebte Op. 98.

Ainsley is in good voice, his German immaculate, and these accounts compare well with competitors. The balance, slightly favouring the piano some may think, ensures a true partnership, Burnside making a full contribution to the emotions expressed in the best of these songs.

The recital rises to superb heights in the second version of An die Hoffnung and finishes with the great, imperishable ground-breaking cycle Op. 98, which proceeds without breaks and is held together by the continuity of the piano's expressivity, caught to perfection by the recording team.

The unfussy presentation deserves a word; good background notes by Dr Susan Youens and German/English parallel texts printed clearly and not too small in strong black on glossy white paper for comfortable legibility (not all that common these days !) - full marks to www.wovendesign.co.uk.

Peter Grahame Woolf