The 18 charming, sweet and sentimental love songs that populate Brahms’ first Op.52 Liebeslieder Waltzes were completed in 1859. With four-handed piano accompaniment debuted by himself and his secret (albeit unrequited) love Clara Schumann, they pay homage to the city of Vienna, incorporating the Ländler style throughout. Due to the popularity of such amusements for “house music” he followed with another set, the Op.65 Neue Liebeslieder in 1874. The majority of the texts come from Polydora, Georg Friedrich Daumer’s collection of folksongs and poems. They explore infatuation, longing and the many joys and disappointments that go along with them. They are both a pleasure and a challenge to sing, with soft heartfelt passages punctuated by some rapid-gunfire tongue twisters.
Though sometimes performed by choirs, the songs are most expressive when sung by a quartet of soloists. Soprano Kimy McLaren, mezzo Michèle Losier, tenor Pascal Charbonneau and bass-baritone Alexandre Sylvestre all deliver superb and emotionally dynamic performances as the lovestruck foursome with pianists Myriam Farid and Olivier Godin beautifully augmenting the undercurrents of their turbulent emotional states.