This disc is one of four Australian vocal CDs providing
high-class yet rarely recorded music. It is newly released in the UK.
During his lifetime Richard Strauss wrote around
two hundred songs, many bound as Lieder albums (hence some songs using
the same opus number on this disc). They were usually composed with
certain singers in mind, his wife being the most notable. They are taxing
to the singer and require good breath control to cope with the extended
phrasing. In todayís colleges they continue to be part of a singerís
curriculum and are popular as a result.
The lieder on this disc begin at Op. 10, (the commencement
of Straussís period of mature lieder composition). His aunt, Johanna
Pschorr, herself a singer of quality, encouraged him with his writing.
He met his wife, Pauline de Ahna in 1887 who soon joined his opera company
at Weimar where she went on to sing most of the leading soprano roles
and created the heroine part of his first opera Guntram (1894).
They got married in 1895. This was a year in which she sang Elisabeth
in Wagnerís Tannhäuser at Bayreuth.
In Straussís lieder, the accompaniment is particularly
rich and some charming orchestral effects are achieved, whether these
are originally orchestrated by Strauss, or later by Heger. Many of the
songs are available in different keys hence reference to the key signature
on the disc. The choice of lieder covers a wide variety of Straussian
styles and Davislim shows good versatility to the changing needs of
Strauss said that he liked his songs the best of all
his music. As songs, many are strong operatic numbers that are well
handled both vocally by Davislim and orchestrally by Young.
The song Heimliche Aufforderung in B flat
(Secret Invitation) is one of a volume of four given to Pauline
on their wedding day. It refers to a secret sign which the lovers wait
to receive for their tryst in the garden. It is, of course, a manís
song and, although the notes donít make reference to it, will have been
a song Richard sang to his wife, hence its inclusion in the wedding
set. It was not orchestrated until a year before Straussís death in
The Opus 10 Lieder album contains Straussís most popular
songs, one of which is Allerseelen in E flat (All Soulsí Day),
a wistfully tender song which expresses both nostalgia and hope. It
was orchestrated by Heger in 1932.
Ständchen in F (Serenade) is a particularly
charming song, so much so that it was orchestrated as early as 1912.
It is a light and breezy piece reminiscent of Schubert and carries a
good melody with water-rippling accompaniment provided by fluttering
Written by the poet Henckell, Ruhe meine Seele
in C is a darker yet mystically airy piece and although set by Strauss
the orchestration could have come from the pen of Wagner, perhaps.
The well known, Morgen in G (Tomorrow) is
believed to be one of Straussís most beautiful songs. Its rapturous
and dreamy evocation of loveís bliss with harp ornament is quite enchanting.
The orchestration by Strauss is one of his earliest, dating from 1897
(two years after the lied was written) and includes a delicate counter-melody
provided by solo violin.
Zueignung in C (Dedication) is another
from the Opus 10 set and is an ecstatic outpouring from one who Ďdrank
in joyous freedomí. Although orchestrated in 1932 by Heger, Strauss
reorchestrated it in 1940 for soprano Viorica Ursuleac in appreciation
of her excellent singing in his opera, Die ägyptische Helena.
(The recording on the disc is Hegerís but the reason for this choice
is not provided in the notes.)
Traum durch die Dammerung in F sharp (Dream
in the twilight) is a kind of lullaby, which uses a haunting melody
line. The phrasing is handled well by Davislim. The piece was orchestrated
again by Heger in 1932 as is the next piece.
Composed for his wife, Ich trage meine Minne
in G flat (I carry my Love) is a song where the title speaks for
Liebeshymnus in B is another song
written for Straussís wife, Pauline, and has an early orchestration
provided by Strauss again. A heartfelt melody over an accompaniment
of pulsing block harmonies matches the exultation of the lyrics ĎHail
to the day when first I beheld youí.
The title of the disc comes from this song, Verfuhrung
in E (Seduction) which is one of a set of four Strauss composed
with orchestra in mind. These songs are larger and more operatic than
his other Lieder and the orchestra somewhat symphonic in treatment.
Davislim handles the material superbly.
Das Rosenband in A (The Rose Garland) is
a setting of a poem by Klopstock, used previously by Schubert. It was
first sung by Pauline, yet the words are more appropriate to be sung
by a man and suit this tenor recording well.
Straussís skill in writing is at its very best in Befreit
in E minor (Set Free) yet the poet, Dehmel thought the music too
Ďsoft grainedí Experts would not agree.
Another Dehmel poem was used in Wiegenlied
in D (Cradle Song) which was a favourite with Pauline. She gave
the first orchestral performance. It contains a moving melody, one of
Straussís simplest and loveliest that includes a delightful orchestral
A tender love song is Freundliche Vision
in D (Friendly Vision), one which carries warm harmonies
and soft-toned colours. The orchestration by Strauss dates from 1918.
Waldseligkeit in F sharp (Woodland Bliss)
is dedicated to Ďmy beloved wifeí and again a setting of a poem
by Dehmel. A heavy murmuring drone of bass strings contrasts nicely
with the light vocal line.
Die heiligen drei Konige aus Morganland in
C (The Three Holy Kings from the East) is one of Straussís few religious
songs. It as written for voice and orchestra and is dedicated to Straussís
mother who was a deeply devout Christian. A long introduction for lower
strings describes the Three Kingsí wanderings. The star (Celeste) guides
them to Bethlehem and we hear the oxís bellowing and Christ Child crying.
The disc includes two operatic extracts as a finale:
The opera, Capriccio contains some enchanting Moonlight
music, including a charming piano melody borrowed from a 1918 song cycle
(Krämerspiegel). Der Rosenkavalierís second Waltz suite needs
no introduction. Here it is lovingly played by the State Orchestra of
Steve Davislim is an Australian who began his musical
training as a horn player and studied singing at the Victorian College
of Arts with Dame Joan Hammond. He also studied with a number of notable
Australian singing teachers and was twice awarded the Queen Elizabeth
II Silver Jubilee Award. He has travelled widely and as guest artist
has appeared at Hamburg Opera, Opéra de Lausanne and the Viennese
Schönbrunn Mozart Festival, to name just a few. In this performance
he sings confidently and with clarity: his tone is appealing and he
is sensitive to the dynamics of the material. In some of the songs there
are particularly long phrases which test the breath control of the singer:
whilst others are taxing to the singerís register. Davislim handles
such demands with ease and grace.
Simone Young is little heard of as a conductor in the
UK yet we should remember her British debut at Covent Garden in 1994:
she is in fact one of the leading Australian conductors of her generation.
She made her debut at Sydney Opera House in 1985 and in 1987 went to
Cologne Opera as conductor. She went on to assist Barenboim at Bayreuth
with The Ring and has enjoyed a wealth of international engagements.
On this disc she handles the forces extremely competently and gives
an excellent performance.
Usefully, the booklet contains the lyrics clearly set
out in German, English, and French. The notes on Strauss and the pieces
are understandably compressed due to the space needed for the lyrics
of every song. This is another first class recording from Melba, a good
compilation and well produced.