Still young (age 31) German baritone Stephen Genz continues to traverse the world of lieder in this finely produced and recorded CD with his regular partner, British pianist Roger Vignoles.
The pair turned out an outstanding CD of Beethoven lieder some years back and both are well known on the lieder circuit. Genz has recorded lieder by Wolf and Beethoven as well as other works by two Bachs (J.S. and C.P.E). He collaborated last year on a CD of Mozart arias with his brother, a tenor.
So this foray into the world of Mahler is expected for the young baritone, whose vocal timbre seems to me more baritenor than baritone. Genz lacks the bass depth and profundity peers such as Matthias Goerne and Andreas Schmidt.
Genz was trained by the greatest lieder singer of the past 100 years, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. You hear his teacher's influence early on in this recording when Genz hectors and emotes like his forebear in "Ablosun im Sommer" from Lieder und Gesange and later in "Ich hab ein gluhend Messer" from the Wayfarer songs.
I am not much of a fan of this style, developed after World War II and perfected by Fish-Dish. It is a style that suggests the songs are songspiel, small opera if you will, that are intended to be acted out as well as sung. Lieder singers in the prewar era sang the songs with vocal beauty and verve, paying no attention to the now prevalent idea that Mahler's great angst and remorse should be presented in the tunes.
So I qualify my ranking of this recording, which otherwise has everything going for it. Genz is in typical remarkable style, belting out the emotional songs with ear-splitting volume and whispering the softer, more subdued songs about dead children from Kindertotenlieder.
It is in this group of songs where pianist Vignoles does his most splendid work, especially in the first song, "Nun will die Sonn so hell aufgehn" and later during "In diesem Wetter, in diesem Braus".
No listener, regardless of his or her bias in vocal music, will deny the greatness of interpretation and execution in these songs about dead and dying children. The Genz-Vignoles partnership on these grief-induced songs is the pinnacle of achievement here.
Finally, the notes to this well-filled production are very fine, detailing the history and circumstances of Mahler's song and part writing in two languages and including brief biographical sketches on singer and pianist. Texts and translations are provided in English, French and German. This is an outstanding issue no Mahler afficianado will want to be without.