Notes and Editorial Reviews
It takes courage – some would say nerve – for an Englishman to face the linguistic fences here at a full canter. But a German ... ! Actually, Wolfgang Holzmair does remarkably well, and if you have to turn to the printed page to follow the words, well, so you probably would anyway whoever was singing them. Often it is only a small thing (such as ‘theh’ instead of ‘thuh’ for ‘the’) that betrays the singer’s nationality, and heaven knows we must do much worse in German ears when we essay their Lieder. What Holzmair gives us in exchange is a most beautiful legato. I’ve become very fond of the seven-disc volume of folksong arrangements in DG’s Beethoven Complete Edition, and comparing Christopher Maltman’s clean-edged singing of that song
(“Morning a cruel turmoiler is”) one finds distinct advantages; but turn back a track to “The kiss, dear maid”, and the beauty of Holzmair’s singing is in a different category altogether. Even with Thomas Allen for comparison, as in “Oh! sweet were the hours”, the Germans’ performance has a shade more tenderness in the caress of the verse before the rousing refrain of “Bring some wine to cheer me”.
Germans, note: plural. The work of the Fontenay Trio is a delight in itself. The instrumental writing in these arrangements is part of the fun, the holiday mood which these small works suggest in the great composer. In “Critics’ choice” (3/98), having put the seven-disc set at the top of the list, I wondered aloud whether Beethoven regarded these things as a chore and accepted them as mere hackwork. Barry Cooper’s note for this new record gives the answer. At first he did, but before long he was enjoying himself so much that he renounced other commissions in their favour. And so it sounds.
-- Gramophone [4/1998]
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