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Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, December 2013

A never before issued recital from Aldeburgh with two of the the most personal and expressive British singers of their generation is a gift from Heaven. Both singers are truly inspired and I’ve rarely heard these songs performed with greater vitality. It may be that other pianists have made more with the accompaniments, but what counts is the wholehardedly engaging singing. © 2013 MusicWeb International

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, January 2013

‘Wolf never intended the vignettes and character sketches of the Italian Songbook to form a unified cycle’, writes Richard Wigmore in the liner notes. Steuart Bedford, who devised the order of the songs, grouped them in what Wigmore calls ‘miniature dramatic scenes’. This works well. The final scene (tr. 41-46) is particularly entertaining. Here both singers let their hair down and indulge in some really juicy characterisation, to the audible joy of the otherwise very well-behaved audience.

Janet Baker is…wonderfully responsive to words and songs. Mein Liebster hat zu Tische mich geladen (tr. 5) and Mein Liebster ist so klein (tr. 7) should convince prospective buyers that this disc is worth anyone’s money. Verschling’ der Abgrund (tr. 25) is magnificent; there would have been clapping even if this hadn’t been the last song before the interval.

Steuart Bedford’s accompaniments are competent…

…this is a thrilling performance of Italienisches Liederbuch and lovers of Wolf or Janet Baker or John Shirley-Quirk or all three should contemplate a purchase—others too! © 2013 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Robert A Moore
American Record Guide, January 2013

Baker and Shirley-Quirk were at the top of their artistry when this was recorded. Neither was as closely associated with these songs as other singers, notably Fischer-Dieskau and Schwarzkopf, but they give a captivating reading. The superb vocal qualities for which each of them is remembered are captured in this fine sounding recording from the BBC archives, released here for the first time.

…lovers of Wolf songs will not want to miss this. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

David Patrick Stearns
Gramophone, December 2012

No typical Italienisches Liederbuch, this. Neither Janet Baker nor John Shirley-Quirk was particularly known for this repertoire—though they’re both so convincing that one can’t guess why…those who don’t normally go in for Wolf but want to hear these great artists in a significant, previously unreleased performance may find the songbook unexpectedly engaging. And, as one who puts the Italienisches Liederbuch at the summit of the song literature, I was continually excited by new insights at every turn.

Shirley-Quirk is wonderful at revealing the emotional complications of his more introspective songs. Why wasn’t this recording released decades ago? © 2012 Gramophone

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, November 2012

…here we are at the first Aldeburgh Festival after Britten’s death. Three of his favorites are present here, Baker, Shirley-Quirk, and Bedford, the latter as piano accompanist rather than conductor, and the fare is Hugo Wolf, not Schubert.

By 1977, Baker’s voice had become somewhat acidic in quality when singing forte, a tendency the singer herself noted. Her interpretive qualities remained intact, however, and at times in this recital she retreats from the sound barrier to produce some exquisitely sensitive readings of these songs. As for Shirley-Quirk, his large, black bass-baritone voice, with its somewhat closed vowel sounds and Italianate vibrato, always sounded better in person than it did on a recording…Here, it takes the singer a few songs for the voice to warm up and settle in, but once he does he is marvelous…

By the time this program ends, it is not only the singers (and pianist) who are much deeper into these songs, but the listener as well. These performances have the same great kind of vibe…this would certainly be my first choice for this cycle. © 2012 Fanfare

Mary Kunz Goldman
The Buffalo News, July 2012

To me these performances, sung by Janet Baker and John Shirley-Quirk in a live recording from the 1977 Aldeburgh Festival, are glorious. Janet Baker was a wonderful Lieder singer and brings out the music’s subtleties. Shirley-Quirk, a marvelous baritone born in Liverpool in 1931, has a voice that sounds as if it is coming from the bottom of a deep barrel. Steuart Bedford is equal to the accompaniments, adventurous piano parts that make me think of Mahler. These songs might be an acquired taste but it is a joy to acquire it. © 2012 The Buffalo News Read complete review

David Vernier, July 2012

This release…will please fans of these singers and may easily win a few for Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch…performed in an order arranged by pianist Steuart Bedford, very carefully designed to exploit the male/female, love/relationship dynamic that informs each of these short but very colorful, earthy vignettes.

Janet Baker and John Shirley-Quirk are naturals for capturing these songs’ expressive character and for conveying a sense of intimacy that convinces us that these two are the lovers speaking through the songs.

…Bedford is marvelous, reveling in the vigorous, uninhibited, and textually pertinent piano writing. No question, this is an important and very welcome document of significant artistic careers at a very special moment in history, and of some really fine music. © 2012 Read complete review

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