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Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Songs of Love and Death
Heimliche Aufforderung Op. 27 No. 3 [3:39]
O wärst du mein Op. 26 No. 2 [2:58]
Geduld Op. 10 No. 5 [5:08]
Hoffen und wieder verzagen Op. 19 No. 5 [3:12]
Zueignung Op. 10 No. 1 [1:54]
Begegnung TrV 98 [1:48]
Rote Rosen TrV 119 [2:23]
Die Verschwiegenen Op. 10 No. 6 [1:06]
Wie sollten wir geheim sie halten Op. 19 No. 4 [2:02]
Die Georgine Op. 10 No. 4 [3:58]
Die Zeitlose Op. 10 No. 7 [1:41]
Nichts Op. 10 No. 2 [1:41]
Ich liebe dich Op. 37 No. 2 [2:15]
Nachtgang Op. 29 No. 3 [3:01]
Ach Lieb, ich muss nun scheiden Op. 21 No. 3 [1:44]
Befreit Op. 39 No. 4 [5:24]
Aus den Liedern der Trauer Op. 15 No. 4 [1:59]
Lob des Leidens Op. 15 No. 3 [2:35]
Mein Herz ist stumm, mein Herz ist kalt Op. 19 No. 6 [3:07]
Nebel TrV 65 [2:22]
Allerseelen Op. 10 No. 8 [3:19]
Ruhe, meine Seele Op. 27 No. 1 [4:15]
Hedwig Fassbender (mezzo)
Hilko Dumno (piano)
rec. Tonstudio Teije van Geest, Sandhausen, Germany, 25-27 July 2006. DDD
NAXOS 8.570297 [61:33]

A couple of years ago I had a lot of positive things to say about Hedwig Fassbender. She was Isolde on the complete recording of Tristan und Isolde on Naxos (see review). However I also had some misgivings concerning her occasional unsteadiness. She isn’t absolutely free from blemish on this recital either. On the other hand, what little unsteadiness can be discerned is of no importance when weighed against all the positive things. First of all there is such identification and conviction in her singing that one is totally overwhelmed. Being an Isolde she has the power to expand almost without limits and her darkly tinted mezzo-soprano has a wide range of colours.
She opens the recital with Heimliche Aufforderung, a song that every lover of German Lieder has heard in dozens of other readings. Hedwig Fassbender sings it with a certain restraint but with concentrated intensity within the chosen dynamic scope. She also provides a well judged climax. O wärst du mein, a relative rarity, is dramatic in its build-up towards near ecstasy and then curves down to a bleak, resigned end. Fassbender has a large voice but she can scale down the volume admirably and sing softly without loss of quality. In Geduld she is very intimate to begin with and then expands in a way only a true dramatic singer can. More than once one thinks of Kirsten Flagstad. In each and every one of these songs there are approaches and details that show that we are hearing a singer with rare insight. The ebb and flow of Zueignung make the song very alive and in the early Begegnung – composed in 1880 when Strauss was 16! – she is lively and playful with a Pierrot-like accompaniment. Ich liebe dich is one of the best with its intense drama, followed by two songs, Nachtgang and Ach Lieb, ich muss nun scheiden, where the inwardness is so touching.
I have rarely heard Befreit sung with such soft intensity and then spreading its wings to an almost unbearable climax. The third song from Strauss’s youth, Nebel, is sombre in a way that seems unlikely for a 14-year-old and the dark tones of the mezzo voice further underline this.
Allerseelen has for long been one of my absolute favourites among Strauss’s songs. Here it gets a reading that seems ideal and Ruhe, meine Seele rounds off the best Strauss recital I have heard for many a moon. As I have already intimated she is not always vocally perfect but Lieder singing is primarily a matter of communication. This is communication on an exalted level.
Hilko Dumno, who has been Fassbender’s regular accompanist for some years, obviously knows exactly what she wants and needs and provides excellent backing without drawing undue attention to his playing. We have to make do without the song texts but Keith Anderson’s liner-notes are helpful, even though for true understanding of the songs one needs the full texts.
Göran Forsling


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