There are those who enjoy hearing Brahms' two sets of Liebeslieder-Walzer performed by a choir and those who enjoy hearing them sung by a quartet, and rarely do the two factions agree. For the former, the rich tone, lush ensemble, and broad rhythms of Robert Shaw's 1992 Atlanta Chorus recording are the way to go. For the latter, only the unique combination of individualism and interdependence of one singer to a part will do. And for the latter, there are two great recordings of the works available: the masterful Edith Mathis, Brigitte Fassbaender, Peter Schreier, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with pianist Karl Engel and Wolfgang Sawallisch from 1981 for DG and the sensual Barbara Bonney, Anne Sofie von Otter, Kurt Streit, and Olaf Bär with pianists Helmut Deutsch and Bengt Forsberg from 1994 for EMI.
Now with this 2006 disc from Harmonia Mundi, there is another soloistic recording as fine as the DG or EMI. With supple soprano Marlis Petersen, agile alto Stella Doufexis, able tenor Werner Güra, and brawny baritone Konrad Jarnot accompanied by pianists Christoph Berner and Camillo Radicke joining and dividing and pairing and separating in passionate but passing patterns of bliss and despair, these performances seem less studied than Mathis and less ironic than Bonney. Throughout, their tempos are as lightly lilting as their tone is sincere, and these performances are ultimately more direct, more forward, and perhaps more seductive than any other before them. Recorded with wonderful clarity and warmth in Berlin's Teldex Studio by Martin Sauer, the sound here is as one with the performances.