This 1996 recording from German label CPO has sunk into obscurity but I recommend it strongly to both fans of Johannes Brahms and of classical songs.
First, the music. It's difficult to imagine that there are unjustly neglected major works from a major composer such as Brahms but the Op. 32 cycle found here (from the early 1860s, when the composer was in his 20s) and gems like "Von ewiger Liebe" and "Die Mainacht" from Op. 43 (also early 1860s) are true masterpieces. Op. 32 is a thematically-linked cycle of a somber tone, very dramatic... Also, performed are Op. 19 and Op. 46. I do appreciate how such a series groups songs together by opus numbers, thereby replacing the recital format and with it the singer's own feelings about how to organize lieder, with Brahms' own.
The performance by baritone Andreas Schmidt is excellent. He is not a singer I had encountered before but he is a world-class performer, with a beautiful deep baritone and a strong interpretive vision. I know some of these songs from the remarkable Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recordings made in the 1950s (found on an EMI release titled "Les introuvables de DFD") and I must report that I prefer Schmidt's rendition of Von ewiger Liebe" or the Op. 32 songs, which I think are shaped in a more coherent way than even Fischer-Dieskau, who is in excellent form himself here. Whichever one of these two recordings one prefers, that should give you an indication of Schmidt's level of talent. Accompanist Helmut Deutsch does a fine job supporting Schmidt. Most of the program is sung by Schmidt but there are a few lieder done by lyric soprano Juliane Banse, who is acceptable.
Sound quality is very good. This is an overlooked disc that I strongly recommend. If you are a Brahms fan, you'll absolutely want to hear Op. 32.
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