In their wary correspondence, Schoenberg responds to Busoni’s call for perfection with the prickly retort, "But I find perfection only in the work of carpenters, gardeners, pastry-cooks and hairdressers" (August 24, 1909). To the list add Lieder interpreters. Winger and Hartmann have been performing together for a decade, hence their hand-in-glove projection as Winger’s soprano—rising from dark roots to become more brilliantly blonde, so to speak, as it ascends (resembling Schwarzkopf’s in her prime)—touches the lyrics with a loving caress, keeping one at one’s nerve ends throughout, as Hartmann animates Wolf’s orchestrally conceived accompaniments with an unaccustomed intimacy and finesse. "Er ist’s," for instance, usually a furious flurry on the piano through which the vocalist’s clarion soars ecstatically, becomes an exquisite rustle surrounding Winger’s almost whispered spring greeting. The ecstasy is palpable without being trumpeted. Less is piquantly more. A master class with Fischer-Dieskau yielded this testimonial— "Marret Winger showed herself to be a musician of real quality. Her voice is silvery, pleasing and well produced even in the middle and lower registers, and she also has a confident stage presence and communicates well with her audience." Perhaps the understatement owes to Winger’s subtlety, her penchant for coloring syllables discreetly without lapsing into the sort of bold italic underlining affectations marring so many of Fischer-Dieskau’s performances in the latter part of his career. Descriptions of the Winger/Hartmann duo’s intimate scale may suggest pulled punches or expressive flattening, but this is not the upshot—through a range encompassing the hush of "Anakreons Grab" and the dramatic third strophe of "Kennst du das Land" all is vibrantly alive. "Das verlassene Mägdelein" spellbinds, while the agony in "Wie lange schon" is of another kind but palpable. Her seeming artlessness through the "Mignon" group calls Goethe’s adorable androgyne before us in all her fascinating complexity. And so on. Within a spacious aural frame, voice and piano, taken very close and finely detailed, strike an ideal balance. Poems with translations are included. Splendidly realized and enthusiastically recommended.
Adrian Corleonis

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