Lieder (Ameling, Baldwin)
The sleeve notes tell us about this singer’s devotion to the lied. But the sung notes sound, to me at least, much more like Brahms being placed at the service of Miss Ameling. He is transposed for the sake of her vocal ease and effects. In his panoramic Von waldbekränzter Höhe and his very butch Botschaft he seems to have been called upon to demonstrate her range of interpretation and impersonation; and so he does. He is all too often embellished with “expressive” rallentandos, which are not only unsolicited but counter-productive; thus his repeated melodic curves in Vergebliches Ständchen are already designed to be just arch enough, without any further meaningful extensions. Similarly the last notes of his phrases are constantly prolonged beyond his written note-values, obscuring the harmonies or contradicting the verbal sense, e.g. by making the silent lark go on singing at the end of “schweiget nun auch” in Von ewiger Liebe. The text itself is not always distinctly articulated, and is positively garbled at one of the tenderest lullaby moments in Sandmännchen, where it surely ought not to be the singer who is caught napping.
Dalton Baldwin is distinguished as ever by his sensitive and thoughtful playing, and his experience and skill help to palliate the vocal peccadilloes. And of course those qualities of charm, pathos and warmth of interpretation, allied to beauty of tone, which have understandably endeared Elly Ameling to a considerable following, become fully manifest whenever she and Brahms simultaneously serve each other’s cause. But this disc must surely have been aimed at her public rather than his.
The Musical Times, Dec. 1979 (p. 1007) © the estate of eric sams