Imogen Cooper


Beethoven: An die ferne Geliebte, Haydn, Mozart Lieder

Composed by Franz Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Performed by Imogen Cooper, Wolfgang Holzmair

Philips / 454-475-2 / Recorded at Haydn Hall, Esterházy Castle, Austria

A winning offering of classical songs from a partnership that has gone from strength to strength. There must be few more moving songs in the English language than Haydn's The Spirit's Song, Content and She never told her love, wholly on a par with his work in other fields in terms of both harmonic ingenuity and emotional feeling. Or so it seems when they are sung with the deep eloquence provided by Holzmair, seconded by Cooper's perceptive piano playing. Over and over again in this absorbing, generous recital, but particularly in the Haydn, Holzmair more than ever sounds like a baritone equivalent of his great fellow-countryman, Julius Patzak. There's the same plangent tone, the same ability to conjure forth the inner meaning of a song in an almost reticent way. Yet Holzmair is no less successful in the extrovert jollity of the familiar Sailor's Song. The slight accent in his otherwise commendable English somehow adds to the attraction of these readings.

The partnership is just as successful in its Mozart choices, Cooper displaying typical jeux d'esprit, and they give a properly solemn account of the Masonic cantata, K619, with its many echoes of Die Zauberflote. Even such a familiar song as Das Veilchen is performed with such spontaneity that it might have been written yesterday. In the two Beethoven offerings, the many available versions provide strong competition. Adelaide, perhaps, calls for a slightly more out-going fervour as provided recently by the Award-winning Stephan Genz, who also offered on the same CD a wonderfully youthful An die ferne Geliebte, but Holzmair in his more retiring, gentle way presents another, equally valid view of the cycle, one that yields up subtleties few others have found in the work, not least because he and Cooper have such a rapport that they seem to think as one. If it's true that Philips has decided not to make any more discs with the pair, its decision is to be deplored, especially as their offerings are said to have sold well. The company, to its shame, has already delayed issuing this CD for more than three years.

Alan Blyth, Gramophone, June 2000