Following the iconic series of the complete songs of Schubert and Schumann, Graham Johnson’s latest enterprise traverses the complete songs of Brahms. He is joined here on Volume 2 by the wonderful Christine Schäfer, whose contribution to the Schumann song series won a prestigious Gramophone Award.
Each volume in the series takes us on a journey through Brahms’s career, from youthful settings to songs of maturity. Volume 2 includes a selection of delightful Mädchenlieder and concludes with a handful of Brahms’s intimate folksong settings.
Discerningly partnered by Graham Johnson, Christine Schäfer is in perfect voice. She sings with a pure, luminous tone, crystal clear diction and eloquent phrasing, making this a superb recital in its own right. As part of the wider survey of the complete songs of Brahms, it will take an essential place in any Lieder-lover’s collection.
Fifteen years after Christine Schäfer launched the Hyperion Schumann edition, her pellucid high soprano has lost little of its purity and ease while encompassing richer, aptly Brahmsian shades. And her response to text, mood and harmonic colour is now still more vivid...Johnson always ensures that Brahms's often intricate, contrapuntally inclined textures remain lucid. Gramophone
[in the Ophelia songs] Schäfer is ideally cast: she sings them very much as a singing actress would, artful in her apparent artlessness, and meticulous of diction...[the Madchenlieder's] pungent Eastern European inflections are relished by Johnson and by Schäfer who sings them in engagingly girlish tones, yet without a hint of the coy or arch. BBC ****
A thrilling, limpid sound; clarity of diction; emotional immediacy; a fabulous technique...Christine Schäfer really has it all, and she proves a delightful and imaginative interpreter of these songs...blisteringly forthright when hurling out gypsy-like curses...and bring[ing] a touching naivety to the faux-17th century Ophelia Songs. The richness and subtlety of Graham Johnson's accompanying...gives these familiar and unfamiliar songs a superb chance. Classic fm ****