A rather stingy but worthwhile selection of nicely-rendered songs.

“Mit vierzig Jahren” = BRAHMS: Songs – Havard Stensvold, bass-bar./ Tor Espen Aspaas, p. – LAWO Classics LWC1079, 46:13 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Stensvold has a lyrical, rather light bass-baritone voice that to my mind is perfectly suited to this music. Brahms, by nature, is thick and heavy—he can’t help it, that’s the way he harmonizes things, and that’s also one of the reasons we love him—he is different. But I have heard too many singers, especially males, who attack this music with all the gravitas and heaviness they can muster, and the results are usually terrible. This man is able to float his voice naturally above the harmonies, and submerge it when needed with ease and alacrity. Interpretatively he is generous with his inflections but smart enough to let the natural lilt of the melodies do most of the text projection.

Stensvold assembled four books of Brahms’ songs in 2010 and spent the next four years combing through them to make his favorite selections for this recording. Some you will know, some are a little more esoteric, but all are worthwhile, and all given committed performances. Pianist Aspaas is an equal contributor in sonics of exceptional clarity and warmth, making this a very worthwhile acquisition despite the short timing.


Von ewiger Liebe, Op. 43 No. 1

Der Gang zum Liebchen, No. 1, Op. 48

Vergebliches Ständchen, Op. 84 No. 4

Spannung, Op. 84 No. 5

Nicht mehr zu dir zu gehen, Op. 32 No. 2

Verzagen, Op. 72 No. 4

Salamander, Op. 107 No. 2

In den Beeren, Op. 84 No. 3

Mondnacht, WoO 21

Wie rafft’ ich mich auf Op. 32,1 (v.Platen)

Schon war, das ich dir weihte (No. 7 from Sieben Lieder, Op. 95)

O kühler Wald, Op. 72 No. 3

Der Überläufer, Op. 48 No. 2

Verrat, Op. 105 No. 5

Sapphische Ode, Op. 94 No. 4

Sommerabend, Op. 85 No. 1

Muss es eine Trennung geben, Op. 33 No. 12

Mit vierzig Jahren, Op. 94 No. 1

Treue Liebe, Op. 7, No. 1

—Steven Ritter