This album could well fulfill the ultimate fantasy of many music-lovers: to host a liederabend, or evening of song, in the personal comfort of their own home.
The second instalment of Malcolm Martineau's Decades project has this doyen of accompanists joined by six singers in 21 songs written between 1820 and 1830. Informative booklet notes by Susan Youens and translations of all sung texts will guide you through 70 minutes of utter enchantment
An opening bracket of Schubert songs reveals top-drawer artistry. On the first track, baritone Christopher Maltman takes us for a thrilling ride across a metaphorical bridge between the present and the future; followed by tenor John Mark Ainsley uncovering the melancholy lyricism of Spring.
Schubert accounts for nine of the disc's songs and, later on, mezzo Sarah Connolly is at her lustrous best in the composer's well-known "Ave Maria."
Ainsley lets us hear and be touched by two songs from the teenage Schumann and Mendelssohn while Maltman's dramatic encounter with the dreaded Erlking, courtesy of composer Carl Loewe, emphasises Schubert was not alone in being drawn to Goethe's powerful poem.
Three years ago, Robin Tritschler was a memorable soloist in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's The Creation, singing alongside Madeleine Pierard and Jonathan Lemalu. On this disc, I would liked to have heard the Irish tenor in more than a single contribution, albeit a charming chanson by the Frenchman Louis Niedermeyer.
The advantage of a CD as opposed to a live performance is that its encore potential is limitless. I suspect that many, like me, will be going back for seconds once they've heard Armenian soprano Anush Hovhannisyan sing her three devilishly catchy romances by the Russian Glinka, or Portuguese tenor Luis Gomes in two achingly beautiful songs by bel canto master, Vincenzo Bellini.
What: Decades: A Century of Song, Volume 2 (Vivat, through Southbound)
Verdict: CD offers the classiest of house concerts