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HUGO WOLF Italienisches Liederbuch

Felicity Lott - soprano
Peter Schreier - tenor
Graham Johnson - piano

Hyperon Helios CDH55385

Great to revisit these delightful favourite short songs, 46 of them, with Lott & Schreier and, especially, Johnson's support and masterminding. Perhaps the Italian Songbook is the very best way to introduce Lieder to sceptics?

Clearly a labour of love, with recording sessions taking 6 days in 1993-94; who'd spare that nowadays? Johnson's notes have the authority and interest that we can always expect. He tells us that he had experimented with giving the songs in order of composition at Wigmore Hall, but has reverted to Wolf's published order which he thinks best. But why not have given us the other in brackets, since it is so easy to programme tracks for playing CDs...?

And we're unlikely to know if the singers prepared this recording together; in his live performances, Johnson would have had them staying on stage throughout, as was his style for the ground-breaking Songmakers Almanac. Or did the exigencies of schedules and costs mean that one did the allotted songs in May 1993 and the other in January 1994, only coming together on the disc, originally released in 1994? We'll probably never know, but one clue is that the balance and tone is slightly different between the two. Lott is just a little insecure in the very first Auch kleine Ding but quickly finds form and characterises the varied moods of woman in and out of love to a tee. Schreier is superb throughout, his tone (and Johnson's too) a little fuller.

At Helios price, a disc to treasure.

Peter Grahame Woolf