Rihm is in reflective mood in his songs, the word setting expressive and precise in his response to he poets and the nuances of the chosen texts.There is none of the extravagance and density of a work like Jagden und Formen and his austerity is matched by the focused singing of Clare Lesser, who specialises in post-war composers. She is commendably sparing of vibrato, with a clear white boyish tone – maybe not to everyone’s taste – which should make her also an ideal exponent of ‘ historically informed’ early music performance. Her art is direct, with no artifice to come between the listener and the poets as mediated by Wolfgang Rihm, with mainly bare accompaniments, predominantly slow, but rising at times to overwhelming climaxes.
There are echoes of Mahler and Schönberg’s to be heard – David Lesser suggests Schumann too. Many of the texts are fashionably pessimistic, complemented by the moods conveyed in their settings, as if the difficulties of life now and in earlier times are being faced unflinchingly.
Do not let that dissuade you from a recorded document for which we have to thank Metier’s continuing exploration of continental repertoire not easily to be heard in UK. Rapport is of the closest, with Metier’s recording and production exemplary. Of course, there are comfortably legible parallel texts, in German and English, printed in dark black on white.
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