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Richard STRAUSS (1864 – 1949)
1. Zueignung, Op. 10 No. 1 [1:59]
2. Die Nacht, Op. 10 No. 3 [2:51]
3. Die Georgine, Op. 10 No. 4 [3:33]
4. Die Zeitlose, Op. 10 No. 7 [1:43]
5. Allerseelen, Op. 10 No. 8 [3:15]
6. Heimkehr, Op. 15 No. 5 [2:13]
7. Seitdem dein Aug’ in meines schaute, Op. 17 No. 1 [1:51]
8. Breit’ über mein Haupt dein schwarzes Haar, Op. 19 No. 2 [1:34]
9. Mein Herz ist stumm, mein Herz ist kalt, Op. 19 No. 6 [2:56]
10. Ach Lieb, ich muss nun scheiden! Op. 21 No. 3 [2:00]
11. Cäcilie, Op. 27 No. 2 [2:19]
12. Morgen, Op. 27 No. 4 [3:23]
13. Liebeshymnus, Op. 32 No. 3 [2:20]
14. Meinem Kinde, Op. 37 No. 3 [2:15]
15. Befreit, Op. 39 No. 4 [5:15]
Alban BERG (1885 – 1935)
Sieben frühe Lieder (1907)
16. No. 1 Nacht [3:55]
17. No. 2 Auf geheimem Waldespfade [2:09]
18. No. 3 Das macht, es hat die Nachtigall [2:03]
19. No. 4 Traumgekrönt [2:29]
20. No. 5 Im Zimmer [1:26]
21. No. 6 Im Arm der Liebe schliefen wir selig ein [1:46]
22. No. 7 Sommertage [1:48]
Michiyo Iida (soprano), David Lutz (piano)
rec. 19 May 2008, Vienna (?)
German texts and Japanese translations enclosed
PREISER RECORDS PR90755 [55:21]
Experience Classicsonline

Juxtaposing songs by Richard Strauss and Alban Berg isn’t as strange as it may seem, considering the different paths the two composers were to take later in life. Strauss started out as a rather cautious romantic and in the early years of the new century flirted for a time with modernist trends (read Elektra) before settling on his own kind of late-romanticism. Berg on the other hand admired Beethoven, Mahler and Brahms but influenced by Arnold Schönberg became a leading force in the Second Viennese School and a front-runner for atonal music.
 
On this disc we meet them both at rather early stages of their creativity. Through the fifteen Strauss songs we follow him from the earliest group of songs, published as Op. 10 when he was 21 and including songs written as early as 1882, up to Befreit from his Op. 39. That brings us to just a couple of years from the turn of the century. Alban Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder were published when he was just over twenty and here we can trace Brahms as well as Debussy and maybe a drop or two of Strauss as well. It is a clever pairing and Michiyo Iida and David Lutz should surely have credit for this.
 
I am less sure about the execution of the songs. Michiyo Iida’s biography includes an impressive list of renowned singers and voice teachers with whom she has studied and a similar list of operatic roles as well as concert performances and Lieder. 19 May 2008 may have been a bad day for her and it may not have been a good idea to record all these 22 songs at one go. The first impression is of a singer who isn’t at ease with herself. The delivery is uneven, the breath-support is insufficient, resulting in flat tone. The phrasing is occasionally clumsy – breath-control again – and she sometimes sings under the note. She also has a somewhat swaying vibrato and the tone at forte is shrill. It wasn’t a good start and the first few songs gave very little pleasure. On the other hand her good intentions are evident as is her insight in the poems – Allerseelen, a special favourite of mine, was quite acceptable but still marred by the technical shortcomings. By degrees she became better – or I adjusted to her singing – and the last Strauss song¸ Befreit, was certainly the best of them all. Long before that, however, I had greatly admired the piano playing of David Lutz, experienced as few others, and his introduction to Morgen was masterly.
 
Interestingly Ms Iida did herself more justice in the Berg songs. Her intonation was better, the uneasy vibrato and the flatness of tone were almost gone and there was a confidence in her readings that I couldn’t have dreamt of after the first few Strauss songs. This shows that she certainly has more capacity than she was able to muster in most of the Strauss songs. I don’t know whether the songs were recorded in the order they were presented on the disc but it seemed that she gained in security and confidence step by step. It is a pity that she didn’t reach that stage before the recordings started. As it is this feels more like a preliminary that should have remained in the archives.
 
I can see little reason to recommend this issue to anyone, unless it be for the Berg songs and a couple of the later Strauss songs.
 
Göran Forsling
 


 


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