on 6 April 2012
The Stone Records/Oxford Lieder Festival complete survey of Hugo Wolf - the first of its kind - has now reached its third volume. Delivering the complete Italienisches Liederbuch in one swoop, Geraldine McGreevy, Mark Stone and Sholto Kynoch prove confident guides through the capricious utterances and ironies of Wolf's style.
McGreevy provides a nimble sweet-voiced soprano. Nimble with her delicate slivers of sound, she is equally touching in full voice. 'Wie lange schon war immer mein Verlangen' showcases both, with Sholto Kynoch ever-pliant at the keyboard. After McGreevy rarified tones, Stone is the quintessence of ease and natural sound, which Kynoch could play to even more. Occasionally Stone's vowels lack focus, but his poise during quieter moments is ravishing, not least 'Nun lass uns Frieden schliessen, liebstes Leben'. Throughout these performance wear the best of 'live' credentials on their sleeves.
For although there are other gold-plated performances of this repertoire out there today, comparisons are ultimately useless. The ambition of this series confirms its importance alone, but there's a lively drama to these discs that offer so much more than the customary theatrical inertia of Wolf performance. The performers simply aren't afraid to deliver the bite and sourness of Wolf's idiom. And it's that confidence which allows us to really discover the sound world - often relatively oblique - rather than viewing these songs through a glass box. This is living, breathing Wolf and it is all the more richer and rarer for that.