In heartbreak or happiness, this distinctive singer is a delight in Brahms
Buoyed by the evanescent shimmer of Roger Vignoles’s accompaniment, Bernarda Fink is all confiding eagerness, phrasing deftly and gracefully and showing a natural feeling for Brahmsian rubato. I had expected Fink’s warm, luminous mezzo, flecked by darker, deeper tints, to be near ideal for, say, the nostalgia of “Alte Liebe” or the many songs of elegiac loss and heartbreak, all touchingly done here. But having thought of her as an essentially “serious” singer, dignified, eloquent, I was delighted at the vivacity and “face” she brings to “Bei dir sind meine Gedanken” and other lighter songs. “Ständchen”, here more sunlit than moonlit, is charmingly characterised, with an affectionate caress on the dreaming girl’s “Vergiss nicht mein”. Fink is playfully coquettish without archness in the delicious “Spanisches Lied”, and sings “Vergebliches Ständchen” with an outgoing boldness and witty touches of timing – and the tender lingering on the penultimate “Mein Knab” suggests that the boy’s luck may soon be about to change.
Other singers have brought a more intense yearning to “Die Mainacht” and found greater mystery amid the slumberous balm of “Feldeinsamkeit”. But Fink’s flowing performances, sensitively shaped and inflected, are never less than satisfying. It is good to be reminded, too, that, for all its melancholy, “Die Mainacht” is also a song of spring, suffused by warm major-key harmonies, with a hint of excited anticipation at the line “Wann, o lächelndes Bild”. On the face of it, Fink’s lyric mezzo would seem to be on the light side for “Von ewiger Liebe”. But with Vignoles imaginatively “orchestrating” the keyboard part, she gives a finely graded, deeply moving performance, vividly contrasting the contained passion of the boy’s words with the girl’s gentle candour. The glowing climactic avowal of eternal love is as overwhelming as in any of the more opulent-voiced performances I know, setting the seal on a Brahms recital of rare distinction.
-- Richard Wigmore, Gramophone [5/2007]
Reviewing original Harmonia Mundi release