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The songs are predominantly slow and quiet. Occasionally the music gets louder but rarely faster; these are intense, concentrated experiences. Clare Lesser sings the fragmentary vocal line with purity, clarity and commendable accuracy [listen -- track 1, 0:06-1:26]. She is ably supported by David Lesser playing the tough piano part. But, after 25 minutes, I wanted something a little more. Her diction is good, but I kept wondering what the cycle would sound like sung by a native German speaker. I missed a sense of the intensity of meaning of the words. Rihm's vocal language in these songs relies on small gestures and an idiomatic feel for the nuance of the language seemed to be missing from Clare Lesser's performance. I may, of course, be doing her an injustice and this bleached bare tone might be deliberate; but even so it left me wanting something more.

The Drei Gedichte von Monique Thoné date from 1997 and set poems by Monique Thoné. She originally wrote the poems in Dutch but the composer set Thoné's own translations into German. The catalogue lists them as being for middle voice and piano but they were premièred in 1998 by the soprano Judith Vindevogel. They are amongst Rihm's shortest and most concentrated settings. These are followed by Lenz Fragmente -- Fünf Gedichte von J M R Lenz. These date from 1980 and in their original version are described as being for tenor and piano, but in 1982 mezzo-soprano Anne Gjevang premièred the more extended orchestral version of the songs. The composer sets his own selection of fragments of poems and passages from the letters of J M R Lenz (1751-1792). In this cycle, the music on the disc does become a little noisier and livelier, but like the earlier song-cycle, I commended Lesser's purity and accuracy whilst wanting that bit extra [listen -- track 18, 0:00-1:18].

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Copyright © 13 February 2005 Robert Hugill, London UK


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