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Richard Gate
Limelight, July 2009

The notes to this 2CD set suggest that it includes all Mozart’s Lieder, but a volume of Mozart songs that I possess includes (e.g. the famous Warnung) that are not included here. However, for what we do have, we should be very grateful. Many of these songs are known to music lovers from the still available records made years ago by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Irmgard Seefried, but it seems to me that Ruth Ziesak and Lothar Odinius outdo the older singers. The modern singers deploy their art with less affectation. Both Ziesak and Odinius have excellent voices and the right sense of style. It was a good idea to have some of the songs sung by a man; ‘An Chloe’, for example, is certainly the property of a male. Ulrich Eisenlohr (who wrote the informative notes) is a superb accompanist. Some of the songs are accompanied, in accordance with Mozart’directions, by a mandolin; one of them is ‘Komm liebe zither’ which sounds like a precursor of Don Giovanni’s Serenade. The least interesting are those associated with Freemasonry. The singers do not always sing all the verses in the strophic songs, texts and translations can be accessed from the Internet. The recording throughout is excellent with none of the metallic edge that so many CD recordings give to voices. All in all, this CD is an important and enjoyable release and evidence of the extraordinary renaissance of Lieder singing that has taken place in Europe in recent years.

Evan Dickerson
Fanfare, January 2009

If there is one aspect of Mozart’s œuvre that is largely underrated, it is his songs. The reason for this has long eluded me, because in recital they can often form delightful highlights within an overall program. In the course of what is a reasonably small output from a composer of such importance Mozart treads a path from the traditionalist strophic format of his early years to examples of Lied that might almost be thought of as Schubertian…Ruth Ziesak is an experienced Mozartian, and she sings with a lightness of timbre throughout that is pleasing. Lothar Odinius, heard to useful effect on the Naxos Schubert Lieder edition, is a creditable partner to Ziesak…The sound quality is more than acceptable. As is usual for Naxos sets, informative notes are included, but texts are downloadable from their Web site. For many, though, price will be the factor in Naxos’s favor, and understandably so.

Margarida Mota-Bull
MusicWeb International, October 2008

As stated in the booklet, Mozart loved song and the human voice, which he used as the predominant instrument of musical expression throughout his career. Though his songs do not have the same artistic importance as his operas or concert arias, they demonstrate the composer’s interest in all forms of composition and his talented versatility. While these discs do not offer anything new or terribly original, they certainly deliver nearly two hours of relaxing and pleasing musical experience. There is however much more to Mozart’s songs. They demonstrate the composer’s incredible ability to merge the music with the sound and rhythm of words. Whether the poems he chose are in German, French or Italian the text is always beautifully underlined by the music. Mozart never compromised his unique melodic gift and always showed a wonderful understanding of the poetic text. He had a talent for grasping the specific sound of the various languages, never writing against it and always subtly stressing the correct part of the text, enhancing its meaning. He was one of the first composers to give song a dramatic treatment, paying special attention to any subtle changes of inflection and to the flow of the words. In so doing, Mozart created music that is shaped by the text, melts with it and brings out a harmonious little story, a mini-drama or a mini-comedy; and so, foretelling the direction that Lieder composition was to take under the influence of the great Romantics, such as Schubert, Schumann or Wolf.

This 2-CD set contains thirty-six songs: thirty-four are by Mozart, one by Schubert and one attributed to the Czech composer Josef Mysliveček but arranged by Mozart. This last one, Ridente la calma, was believed for a long time to have been written by Mozart but there appears to be evidence that he only arranged it. Whatever the truth, it is one of the most beautiful works on the CD, sung in its original Italian, graceful and serene, telling of a peaceful, fulfilling love. Schubert’s song included here, Luisens Antwort, uses the poem written by Kosegarten as a reply to Klamer Schmidt’s poem Das Lied der Trennung, which Mozart transformed into a remarkable song. Whether Schubert knew Mozart’s song is arguable but undeniably these two songs are not only a literary but also a musical pair, forming a dramatically expressive and unusual dialogue.

Possibly, the most famous of all the songs here is Das Veilchen and this is not by chance. It is the only song that Mozart composed to a poem by Goethe. The text is beautifully written, full of subtle but tragic irony and Mozart’s music perfectly brings out these aspects of it, creating a psychological mini-drama that is a precious, little masterpiece. The song is wonderfully interpreted by German soprano Ruth Ziesak who gives it a pure and delicate treatment.

Ziesak performs approximately half of the pieces on this set and the other half is sung by German tenor Lothar Odinius. Both singers are accomplished, critically acclaimed Mozart interpreters and they do full justice to the beauty of these little gems. Ziesak possesses a clear, crystalline vocal line, with a beautiful legato, delicate phrasing and purity of sentiment. She excels particularly in one of the French songs, Oiseaux, si tous les ans and in the Italian, Ridente la calma. It is perhaps peculiar that her rendition of the German songs is less clear in terms of the language, even though she is a native German speaker, though no less beautiful or accomplished. Odinius on the other hand is in his element in all the German songs. His diction is perfectly clear, giving it the required subtle inflection; one hears each syllable in wonderful harmony with the music. He sings with grace, elegantly and emotionally expressive. Odinius studied with the great bass-baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (b. 1925) and had masterclasses with non-other than Alfredo Kraus (1927-1999). The influence of these two wonderful singers is audible throughout Odinius’s performances, particularly in Lied der Freiheit, which he delivers with clarity, style and vitality; and in version one of Die Zufriedenheit. This is the one with mandolin accompaniment; to my mind, more beautiful than the one with piano. Odinius sings it with delicacy and sensitive sweet tone. The mandolin is wonderfully and effectively played by Ariane Lorch, not only a talented player but also a conductor. She provides the accompaniment to only one other song in the CD, Komm, liebe Zither, komm, also sung by Odinius. All other pieces are accompanied at the piano by accomplished musician and scholar Ulrich Eisenlohr. His performance is expressive and relaxed throughout, demonstrating his versatility and expertise in Lieder accompaniment, easily moving from vivacious or passionate to delicate or sensitive, depending on the character of the song. He perfectly cushions the vocal line, enhancing and supporting it, without ever attempting to overwhelm the voices or bring the instrument to the foreground. Eisenlohr displays an excellent understanding not only of the piano but also of the intimate phrasing and sentiment present in Mozart’s music. He also wrote the detailed explanatory notes about the songs, contained on the CD booklet, which make a really pleasant and informative reading.

I thoroughly enjoyed this recital. It was obviously recorded with great care and lovingly performed by all the artists involved. This set is pleasant from beginning to end, sometimes absorbing, sometimes relaxing but always revealing of Mozart’s unique gift: the harmonious combination of very different emotions in music, which people can identify with at the many and various moments of their lives. To finalise, I would like to repeat the words of Classic FM’s presenter, Simon Bates, which for me defines what Mozart’s music is all about: “I listen to Mozart when I’m delighted or depressed and at all the points in between”. I could not agree more!

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, September 2008

Ulrich Eisenlohr—the mastermind behind the Naxos complete Schubert cycle—is at the piano. The experienced Lieder singers Ruth Ziesak and Lothar Odinius—both also taking part in the Schubert cycle—share the songs and in a couple of instances singing together. With this in mind we can rest assured that there is a great deal of accomplishment here. ...—the theme of which also appears as the theme of the final movement of Mozart’s last piano concerto—turned out to be instructive as comparison. Ruth Ziesak is truly spring-like in her reading [of  Sehnsucht nach dem Frühlinge], singing like a rippling spring brook; ..., where Ziesak is eager and soubrettish, even childlike [in Der Kinderspiel]...Ziesak is certainly lovely all through the Naxos set and if I single out Als Luise die Briefe ihres ungetreuen Liebhabers verbrannte as possibly the best thing in the whole programme, the next moment I feel the same about Der Zauberer and Ridente le calma and … As for that lovely song readers may flinch when they see it attributed to Josef Mysliveček. Recent research has led scholars to believe it was a work by the Czech composer, since there exists in the National Library in Paris a version of the song for voice and orchestra under Mysliveček’s name, which differs only slightly from Mozart’s version. The two composers met in Bologna in 1772 and became friends and Mozart’s song was only published after his death, Constanze claiming it to be an original work.

Some readers may also raise an eyebrow when seeing a Schubert song included in this programme. But there is an explanation to this in Eisenlohr’s exhaustive liner-notes. Ludwig Theobul Kosegarten’s poem Luisens Antwort, which Schubert set, was written as a direct answer to Schmidt’s Das Lied der Trennung and there are, as Eisenlohr says, ‘echoes of Mozart’ in Schubert’s music. It is even possible that Schubert knew Mozart’s song. Luisen’s Antwort is well sung by Ziesak and the Mozart song is sung with plangent tone and nervous insight by Lothar Odinius. This is one of his best interpretations as is his reading of the remarkable cantata Die Ihr des unermesslichen Weltalls Schöpfer ehrt, KV 619, dramatic and with roots in Freemasonry. It was written in July 1791, when he was also working on Die Zauberflöte, which is KV 620, and also contains references to the Masonic world. Odinius’s reading is powerful and filled with pathos. ...Odinius is generally keen with words and he uses his voice with great flexibility...He sings Komm, liebe Zither with mandolin accompaniment and the soft and recessed sounds of the instrument inspire him to a likewise scaled-down reading, mellifluous and beautiful. ...Odinius is a lyric tenor but he has weighty tone and I wouldn’t be surprised if he will before long be singing heavier repertoire as a complement to the Mozartean roles. His powerful An Chloë points in that direction, strong but nuanced. ... Ich würd auf meinem Pfad and Das Traumbild are other highlights on this set.

Ulrich Eisenlohr’s accompaniments are mainly unobtrusive and supportive rather than ends in themselves, which no doubt was Mozart’s intention. The recording can’t be faulted. one buying the Naxos set is likely to be disappointed.

David Vernier, July 2008

Mozart's songs--at least some of them--have appeared on disc with reasonable frequency, but usually on compilations with works by other composers. A couple of editions claiming to be "complete" have been issued, but this newcomer overall is the best, combining the sincere, articulate interpretations of two accomplished if not always compelling singers performing 36 songs on two discs. Read full review at ClassicsToday

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