Schubert’s ‘Der Hirt auf dem Felsen’ is the biggest draw here, though Spohr’s typically mellifluous Sechs Deutsche Lieder crop up occasionally in recital. Elsewhere in these accompanied duets for clarinet and voice there are real rarities: say, Lachner’s ‘Seit ich ihn gesehen’ (the first song of Frauenliebe und –leben) and ‘Auf Flügeln des Gesanges’, both rippling along prettily enough though inevitably no match for Schumann’s and Mendelssohn’s famous settings. Meyerbeer contributes a gently melancholy pastoral; and as a jolly send-off, there’s an Alpine yodelling song from the totally forgotten (even by Grove) Andreas Spaeth.
No serious complaints about the performances. Eirian James can be a bit word-shy (more incisive consonants would have helped) but deploys her gleaming high mezzo gracefully and nimbly. The Spohr songs, whose suave vocal lines are pitted against the coaxing, pirouetting clarinet, are tender, and (in ‘Still sei mein Herz’) soulful without sentimentality; and in ‘Der Hirt auf dem Felsen’ she finds a soft, veiled tone for the melancholy central section, and dispatches the final paean to spring with charm and élan. Here and elsewhere Colin Bradbury is a liquid-toned clarinettist, phrasing alluringly and relishing his bouts of elegant virtuosity.
The pianist, with a subordinate role throughout, is discreetly efficient. Three of the numbers, including the sub-Mendelssohnian ‘Der Himmel hat eine Thräne geweint’ by another ephemeral figure, Friedrich Kücken, are given to the young tenor Robert Murray, who sings with fresh, lyrical tone but as yet insufficient verbal awareness.
There are innocent, undemanding pleasures here, though if you listen to the whole disc without a break you could overdose on Biedermeier euphony.
Performance **** Sound ******