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OF THE MONTH
Ritchie Symphony 4
OF THE MONTH
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.
Nebel TrV 65 [2:22]
Allerseelen Op. 10 No. 8 [3:19]
Ruhe, meine Seele Op. 27 No. 1 [4:15]
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
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.
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