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Heidi Brunner
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Scene with Rondo (for soprano and orchestra with piano) K505 (1786)
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Wesendonck Lieder (with piano accompaniment) (1858)
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)

Cantata Arianna á Naxos (for soprano and piano) Hob.XXVIb/2 (1789)
Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)

Il Tramonto (lyric poem for voice and string orchestra) (1914)
Heidi Brunner (soprano)
Kristin Okerlund (piano)
Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra/Bertrand de Billy
Rec. 2002-3, ORF Sendesaal. DDD
OEHMS OC 325 [64:26]

 

The Swiss soprano, Heidi Brunner, here presents an interesting and consistently well-sung recital covering quite a wide range both in terms of style and vocal requirements. In the Wagner and Haydn items she is well accompanied on the piano by Kristin Okerlund who also features in Mozart’s Scene with Rondo, in addition to the orchestra. This piece, which opens the disc, was intended as a concert aria and seems to have been composed as a kind of postscript to Idomeneo some five years later. The text is by Varesco and presents Prince Idamente (played by a castrato at the premiere of Idomeneo) trying to calm his beloved Ilia. The performance is dramatic with good interplay between piano and voice in the final section.

Wagner initially wrote his five Wesendonck lieder with piano accompaniment and subsequently orchestrated them into the form in which they are more usually played today. With both piano and orchestral accompaniment apparently available to her, it seems that Heidi Brunner made a conscious choice for the piano version. Although the associations with Tristan und Isolde are less striking, this brings a less dramatic, more intimate atmosphere. Brunner sings most beautifully throughout and she and Okerlund are convincing advocates for the piece in this form.

Haydn’s tragic cantata Arianna a Naxos is a late work with Italian text, roughly contemporaneous with the Oxford Symphony (No.92). In this long-breathed performance it takes almost as long as the five Wagner lieder. Brunner provides immaculate tone and diction, and the full range of emotions without overplaying the drama. Okerlund seems to be very much on the same wavelength.

Respighi’s Il tramonto is a marvellous work based on a poem by Shelley and it provides a fitting climax to the disc. Janet Baker recorded this for the (lamented) Collins Classics label at the end of her career – a wonderful performance but I would prefer Brunner’s more youthful voice and even slower tempi. The string accompaniment, directed by Bertrand de Billy, is also very fine.

In summary, these are superb performances and the sound is consistently clear and well-balanced. There are no texts in the booklet but this is the only blot on the landscape of a delightful disc. Heidi Brunner is clearly an artist to watch and, if the programme appeals, this is well worth considering.

Patrick C Waller



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