Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's 1999 recital of lieder at London's Wigmore Hall gives listeners a rare glimpse into the mezzo's expertise in a repertoire for which she was not particularly well-known. The absolute technical assurance, the burnished tone, the depth of feeling, and the unmannered directness that characterized her performances are all in strong evidence here. These songs by Brahms and Schumann, some of the composers' most passionate, are ideal for the warmth and intensity of Hunt Lieberson's voice and the sensuality of her delivery. The centerpiece is Schumann's Frauenliebe und -leben. As any great performance of the work requires, Hunt Lieberson embodies the narrator's growth from a love-smitten young girl to a grieving widow, with emotional honesty and with vocal coloring that convincingly depict the arc of a life from youth to old age. Each song feels completely right in Hunt Lieberson's readings, but the hushed joy of "Seit ich ihn gesehen," and the way her voice goes white at the words "leer, leer," (empty, empty) in the final song, are especially affecting. Brahms' Eight Songs, Op. 57, give her a chance for a more virtuosic display, and she brings to them the same piercing focus and honesty. After the unearthly serenity of its opening, "Unbewegte, laue Luft" (which she also sang on her 2004 Ravinia recital on Harmonia Mundi) hurtles forward with rhapsodic passion. Pianist Julius Drake provides a responsive accompaniment. His reading of the Schumann cycle feels a little reserved, but its contrast with the singer's emotional intensity ultimately makes sense and is effective. The sound is warm and enveloping, and the applause between sets is the only hint that this was a live recording.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Songs (8) for voice & piano, Op. 57|
|Lieder und Gesänge aus Wilhelm Meister (9) for voice & piano, Op. 98a|
|Frauenliebe und -leben, song cycle for voice & piano, Op. 42|
|Theodora, oratorio, HWV 68|