Listeners familiar with pianist Graham Johnson's surveys of the complete songs of Schubert, Schumann, and Strauss for Hyperion will know what to expect in this first volume in a projected series of recordings of the complete songs of Brahms -- great singing, great accompaniments, great program, great notes, and great sound -- and this disc does not disappoint. As before, Johnson has picked exactly the right singer for the songs he's chosen. Austrian mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager has the warmth needed for O komme, holde Sommernacht, the agility needed for Salome, the intensity needed for Feldeinsamkeit, and the humor needed for Och Moder, ich well en Ding han! As always, Johnson turns in sparkling, sensitive, and soulful accompaniments, a program that balances the serious and the lighter side of the composer, and notes that tell readers just about all they need to know about the songs. In Hyperion's close but not too close digital sound, it all makes for as splendid a Brahms song recital as has been released in years, and the fact that it is only the first volume makes it all the sweeter.
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