Dvořák: Songs and Duets – review

(Harmonia Mundi)

Given the enormous popularity of Dvořák's symphonies and concertos, it is hard to remember that the work that shot him to fame was his Moravian Duets for soprano, mezzo and piano, published in 1877. They form the centrepiece of this disc of his vocal music sung by Genia Kühmeier and Bernarda Fink with pianist Christoph Berner, and it's easy to see their appeal. Aimed at amateur singers, they possess great melodic charm and rhythmic grace, while the vocal writing has tremendous subtlety. Fink and Kühmeier sing them with great verve, avoiding the pitfalls of sentimentality and folksy cuteness that can so easily creep into this music. Away from the duets, they have a song cycle each. Kühmeier gives a big, passionate performance of the Op 55 Gypsy Songs, while Fink tackles the austere Biblical Songs, written while Dvořák was homesick in the US. They suit her dark tone admirably, though her restrained approach is too cool for my taste.


Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

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