The songs of Hugo Wolf's Italienisches Liederbuch are divided between male and female perspectives, so the cycle has built into it the variety of two singers. All but a few of the songs, which use German translations of poetry from an Italian collection, last less than two minutes. In his idiosyncratic post-Romantic style, Wolf deftly captures the essence of each poem by creating a miniature musical and emotional world. Soprano Mojca Erdmann, baritone Christian Gerhaher, and pianist Gerold Huber offer thoughtful, intelligent performances of the songs. Neither singer has a particularly large voice, and the recorded sound tends to emphasize their limitations. The sound is clean but very close, without much of a sense of atmosphere. Gerhaher can be counted on for thoughtful, penetrating interpretations, and he fully delivers here. He is especially effective in his ability to color his voice to emphasize the emotional temperature of each song. His understated, unmannered performances of "Sterb' ich, so hüllt in Blumen meine Glieder" and "Und steht Ihr früh am Morgen auf" are simply lovely highlights of the album. Erdmann has an immaculate tone that's on the bright side, and a warmer, more spacious ambience would have made it even more attractive. She is absolutely secure technically, but her performances don't have the variety of subtle shadings as Gerhaher's. Neither singer particularly projects the warmth that at least some of the songs seem to call for. Huber's playing is nuanced and rhythmically supple, but the recording makes the piano's sound unforgivingly dry.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins