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Composer of a vast number of brief ditties, Robert Franz (1815-92) bravely set poems that had already been set by much better composers, among them poems by Heinrich Heine which had become part of Robert Schumann’s immortal song cycle Dichterliebe. Despite his status as second-best or sometimes even third- or fourth-best composer of a given lyric, Franz has enjoyed lasting popularity. His songs have served as appetizers at august occasions such as Lotte Lehmann’s farewell recital at New York’s Town Hall in 1951 (VAI), where the accompanist was Paul Ulanowsky.

Robin Tritschler serves up all 47 of Franz’s pieces here, which is rather like ingesting dozens of hors d’oeuvres at a restaurant without a pause. At the keyboard is Graham Johnson, who despite his vast achievements over the years for song literature, at times seems like a somnambulist, all too rarely getting past the surface of the songs. Although Tritschler’s lower and middle range are pleasingly expressive, higher notes on occasion sound strained, more than in his other recorded performances. An unrepresentative recording session may happen to anyone, but one wonders if Tritschler’s voice is developing into a baryton-Martin, and might Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande be in his future?

Benjamin Ivry Read the full review on Agora Classica


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