It was by coincidence that Tuesday’s Oxford Lieder Festival concert fell on Johann Mayrhofer’s 226th birthday. The Austrian poet was second only to Goethe in the number of texts chosen by Schubert, and the programme was a selection of the composer’s settings from 1817-1824. The lieder chosen for the recital fell under two themes: songs based upon classical myth, and those inspired by nature. Wolfgang Holzmair and Imogen Cooper’s keen sensitivity to the poetic content of the lieder made this an impressive (if not technically spotless) recital.
This concert marked a milestone event: the end of a three year undertaking to record the first complete set of Hugo Wolf’s songs (including twenty-two premiere recordings). The project was brought to a close with the Festival’s third and final instalment of the composer’s Goethe-Lieder (performed over the space of five days). Many of the final nineteen songs are settings of lesser-known texts from Goethe’s Westöstlicher Divan. However, the end of the cycle (as with its opening songs) saw Wolf pose a challenge to the past by choosing texts famously set by other Lieder composers. It was entirely appropriate, then, to begin the concert with some Schubert settings of Goethe (with Wolf’s treatments of ‘Ganymed’ and the Suleika tale coming in the second half).
The penultimate concert in a three-year project to record the complete songs of Hugo Wolf, this Oxford Lieder Festival concert’s programme was based around settings of Goethe. With songs by Beethoven, Carl Loewe, Karl Zelter and Franz Schubert thrown in for good measure, the evening brought together four very different singers (with soprano Fflur Wyn and mezzo-soprano Rowan Hellier standing in for the indisposed Louise Alder and Christine Rice).