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There are times when a composer does a strange thing and Zilcher’s Deutsches Volksliederspiel op.32 has me puzzled. Here is the potential for a perfectly good recital of lieder with all the usual contents of love, death, joy, sorrow, huntsmen, and nightingales for piano and four soloists who inhabit this genre with supreme ease; and what does he do? He adds a chamber choir to the mix. Tracks 6-14 are pure lieder and the four singers cast a spell which is ruined by the songs scored for the choir, especially as it makes a very ordinary sound. While Zilcher is not a Schumann or Brahms and lacks their creative genius with the piano, this could have been a very useful addition to the solo repertoire.

The choir shows to better advantage in the remaining three works: Chiemsee-Terzette for women’s voices and Wacht auf and Tone Lied aus weiter Ferne for men. But there is lack of subtlety in the interpretations – fortissimo singing is raucous, words are over-accented, and the choral writing is not very interesting. In the translation of the text, Chromart Classics has left out the words of track 18 in both German and English.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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