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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Songs: Waldseiligkeit, Opus 49 No. 1 (1901); Die Nacht, Opus 10 No. 3 (1885); Ständchen, Opus 17 No. 6 (1886); Leises Lied, Opus 39 No. 1 (1898); Schlechtes Wetter, Opus 69 No. 5 (1918); Des Dichters Abendgang, Opus 47 No. 2 (1900); Der Stern, Opus 69 No. 1 (1918); Der Verschwiegenen, Opus 10 No. 6 (1885); Die Zeitlose, Opus 10 No. 7 (1885); Blauer Sommer, Opus 31 No. 1 (1896); Ich wolt ein Straußlein binden, Opus 68 No. 2 (1918); Ruhe, meine Seele!, Opus 27 No.1 (1894); Allerseelen, Opus 10 No. 8, (1885); Einerlei, Opus 69 No. 3 (1918); Meinem Kinde, Opus 37 No. 3 (1897); Wiegenlied, Opus 41 No. 1 (1899); Mutterländelei, Opus 43 No. 2 (1899); Zueignung, Opus 10 No. 1 (1885); Winterweihe, Opus 48 No. 4 (1900); Das Rosenband, Opus 36 No. 1 (1897); Cäcilie, Opus 27 No. 2 (1894); Ach, was Kummer, Opus 49 No. 8 (1901); Drei Lieder der Ophelia, Opus 67 (1915); Morgen, Opus 27 No. 4 (1894)
Felicity Lott (soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recorded 18-20 February 2002, Champs Hill, Pulborough, Sussex
ASV CD DCA 1155 [72.43]

 

Richard Strauss is one of the great song writers. He had a special penchant for and understanding of the soprano voice. Therefore any collection of his lieder sung by one of the leading sopranos of our time will hold abundant interest.

This recital is expertly planned, the generous listing grouped under various headings, including ‘Nocturnes and Fantasies’, ‘Flowers’, ‘Valedictions and Lullabies’ and ‘Girls in and Out of Love’. This is not unlike the schemes Felicity Lott likes to adopt in her live recitals, and it works equally successfully on disc, making it all the more difficult to listen to anything less than the complete sequence.

The pianist is the admirable Graham Johnson, who is undoubtedly one of the finest lieder pianist-accompanists in the world. Add to that the high standards of the ASV presentation, with excellent and sympathetic recorded sound, and this release moves towards the top of the recommendations for this repertoire. Although the print is small enough to be a strain upon the eyes, the excellent insert notes by Michael Kennedy are illuminating in their detail, while full texts and translations are included. There is no doubt, then, that this is a high quality product.

In this context it seems almost invidious to single out particular tracks for either praise or caveats. But such is the reviewer’s task. Felicity Lott is at her best in practically all these songs, but to single out just a few, her closing item, the beautifully phrased Morgen, is as sensitively drawn as could be. Likewise she is perfect in the delightful yet penetrating words of the lullabies Meinem Kinde and Wiegenlied. Conversely, she is less naturally on home territory in the larger, quasi-Wagnerian songs Zueignung (originally written for a heldentenor) and Ruhe, meine Seele! However, her artistry is such that these performances too are most enjoyable.

This is surely one of the finest lieder recitals to have entered the catalogue in recent times. It arrived just too late, alas, to be allocated the place in the recordings of the year that it deserved.

Terry Barfoot

 



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