Of the three volumes of Beethoven's songs by Peter Schreier, the first volume -- with its An die ferne Geliebte, Goethe Lieder, and Gellert Lieder -- is no doubt the most popular. The second -- with its love songs and its two An die Hoffnung settings -- is no doubt next most popular. And this third volume -- with its joke songs; its early songs; and its Italian, French, and Latin songs -- is no doubt the least popular. While there is some justice in this -- after all, how many times will anyone want to hear Beethoven's drinking songs? -- there are some wonderful things in this volume. Schreier, as it turns out, is hilarious: his performance of the five Scherzlieder -- literally, joke songs -- at the start of the disc are among the funniest ever recorded. Schreier is also quite a linguist: his performance of the non-German songs are supremely well sung and in the case of In questa tomba oscura (WoO 133), is incredibly affecting. And Schreier is a wonderful advocate for Beethoven's earliest songs, making even the slightly ridiculous Elegie auf den Tod eines Pudels (WoO 110) sound as much like a great song as it is ever likely to sound. Although no one would suggest foregoing the more profound pleasures of An die ferne Geliebte or the second An die Hoffnung, there are lighter and more delightful pleasures to be had in this volume.
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