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David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2010

During his lifetime the song output of the would-be opera composer, Siegfried Wagner, had little international exposure, and it was not until 1966, thirty-six years after his death, that they emerged from the shadows in a Bayreuth concert. He does not appear to have made any great effort himself to popularise them, and after 1897 there was a gap of over twenty years when he added nothing to the genre. In addition to being a composer he did think of himself in literary terms, and as well as providing the librettos for his operas, he also contributed much of the text for his songs. They show no connection with the music of his father, Richard, but seek to follow in the footsteps of Schubert. Melodically they are attractive, but where he differs from Schubert is in the piano accompaniment that does not have the freedom to speak as an independent voice, the piano mostly locked into the vocal line. They are not here performed in chronological order but are set out to provide a programme of varying moods that range from fun to deep sadness. In length the fifteen tracks are each of substance, ending with the extended fairy-tale, Das Marchen vom dicken fetten Pfannekuchen (The Tale of the Thick, Fat Pancake), a story with a moral ending. The problem for the singer comes in the long passages that are set high in the range, and the estimable Rebecca Broberg is stretched in such moments. Having already taken part in recordings of Siegfried’s operas, her name is now linked with his music, and she makes out a good case for our continued interest. Hans-Martin Grabner is a discerning partner and the recording is very good.

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