Italienisches Liederbuch (Ameling, Souzay/Baldwin)*
Wolf's 46 Italian songs are highly, and hence identifiably, sexed. But their language is really German; so they can be masculine, feminine or neuter. Gérard Souzay recorded 23 of them on Philips SAL 3661 four years ago, Elly Ameling 26 on SAL 3797 nearly two years later. Both were accompanied by Dalton Baldwin - evidently chosen as the best man for the purpose, since these single discs now appear not merely married but blessed with reissue.
I think that all this should have been publicly announced, and not just left to be inferred from the features that remain identical (for example, the sleeve note's original misinformation about dates of composition is reprinted unchanged). There are only two newly-acquired characteristics. First we can now, for the same money, buy less music: a truly Sibylline offer. Second, the 46 songs are intercalated in what is called a “dramatic” sequence. My guess is that the main aim was to place not the characters but the discs-side by side, for convenience of re-recording. The booklet suggests that there is some special merit in the order chosen, which however “should in no way create the illusion of a plot”. We are then told that in the first few songs “the lovers become acquainted”. So the illusion of a plot is created, after all; and it sounds to me like a plot against Wolf. How can original keys and transposed keys satisfactorily interlock in the same box? How can the diversity of love be best illustrated by the separate performances of one couple, whatever the subsequent coupling?
But no doubt this involves a highly personal view; and it is fair to add that anyone in whose judgment the profuse and profound passion of a Wolf is acceptably presented in terms of his 'n' hers may well wish to try this case of Souzay '67 cut with Ameling '69. Perhaps there is after all something to be said for putting old wine into new bottles, though the product could have been more tastefully blended; more clearly labelled, and more modestly priced. Fortunately for all concerned, these are vintage versions; and the earlier critical sampling (e.g. MT Oct 1970, p.1010) found the original artistic performances entirely acceptable, separate performances.
The Musical Times, Jan. 1973 (p. 42) © the estate of eric sams