CPO already has recorded the complete Pfitzner Lieder for voice and piano, surely not one of the label's best-selling projects. This disc suggests that the music deserves more serious attention, at least from Lieder fans. The performances here are wholly wonderful and show this fitfully inspired composer in the best possible light. His scoring is invariably deft and colorful, and his tunes are ingratiatingly singable.
Pfitzner isn't known for his sense of humor (my colleague Bob Levine memorably described his monumental opera Palestrina as "Parsifal without the laughs"), but just listen to De Heinzelmännchen (The Little People), an adorable fairy-tale tone poem for voice and orchestra lasting around 10 minutes. It's the biggest number in the program (there are 18 in all), full of good humor and vocal high-jinks, brilliantly exploiting a large orchestra. At the opposite end of the size scale come the brief but opulent Op. 4 Heine settings. Two others among the poets most frequently encountered: Eichendorff and, of course, Goethe ("Wanderers Nachtlied", "An den Mond", and others).
Baritone Hans Christoph Begemann is about as fine a Lieder singer as we have any right to expect. His voice is smooth and even throughout its range, and he knows how to characterize a text without shouting, crooning, or otherwise indulging in the usual Lieder singer's book of irritating tricks. In large pieces such as the ballad-like Herr Oluf (text by Herder) he captivates with his story-telling ability and sense of drama. The accompaniments under conductor Otto Tausk couldn't be more aptly judged, or more finely engineered. If you enjoy the orchestral Lieder of Mahler and Strauss, then this disc is a must.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com