The recording of Carl Reinecke's complete children's songs, in two volumes, was initiated as a fundraiser for the Children's Cancer Ward at the Düsseldorf University Hospital. The first CD includes 54 songs, most lasting a minute or two, but some less than 20 seconds. Reinecke was a prominent figure in music pedagogy in nineteenth century Germany (Liszt selected him as his daughter Cosima's childhood piano instructor), and although he wrote large works, a significant part of his output was devoted to hausmusik, pieces intended for use within the family. The children's songs were written for parents to sing and play for their children, although some are duets in which children could join in. If nothing else, they are a testimony to the advanced level of amateur musical proficiency of the era; while they are not by any many means virtuoso pieces, their vocal and keyboard demands put them beyond the reach of most modern parents who have not had advanced musical training. They are firmly within the tradition of mid-Romantic lieder, conventionally structured, often with a folk-like sound, but the moods and themes are consistently gentle and positive; they are distinctive for their complete lack of angst. The songs' relentless pleasantness makes them a little wearing in this large a dose, but each one individually is charming, lyrically gratifying, and skillfully constructed. Soprano Caroline Merz and mezzo Marta Marquez use more vibrato than is ideal for the music's simple character, and their blend in the duets isn't especially felicitous, but the solos are for the most part effective. It's hard to know exactly who the target audience for the CD would be; this is not music that's likely to have much appeal for most twenty first century children, but it could be of interest to fans of Romantic lieder.
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