We’ve had to wait until
Volume 4 of Hyperion’s Strauss series to hear a male voice
but the wait has been worthwhile. In this latest addition
to the series the singing of both Christopher Maltman and
Alistair Miles gives much pleasure.
has the lion’s share of the programme. He offers some fine
songs but Strauss is a composer who one has to take warts
and all, and there are some songs in this programme that
show Strauss as less than fully inspired. One such is ‘Leise
of which even Roger Vignoles comments “as a performer one
has to work quite hard to avoid the impression of over-gilding
a somewhat unconvincing lily.” I have reservations also about ‘Lied
an meinen Sohn’. This is a setting of a poem by Richard Dehmel,
in which a father gives advice to his infant son not to repeat
mistakes in life that he himself has made. Strauss provides
turbulent music which one feels would frighten a youngster
out of his wits. The song is a big, wide ranging piece which,
to be frank, steers preciously close to the bombastic. Vignoles
is surely right to describe it as “an exercise in musical
that one is doubly grateful for a respite in the form of ‘Am
Ufer’, a rapt song, which is given here with great poise.
The vocal line tests Christopher Maltman’s voice at both
ends of its compass but he’s entirely successful, not least
in treating us to some gorgeously floated soft high notes,
notably on the word “Sternchen” (at 1:53) and on the very
last word of all, “Licht”.
His opening group, Op.
15, gives us what proves to be an excellent foretaste of
what’s to follow. All these songs are settings of Adolf von
Schack (1815-1894), with the exception of the first, which
is the sole setting by Strauss of a text by Michelangelo.
In that song, ‘Madrigal’, Maltman displays generous tone
and fine control. He evidences a fine sense of line in the
third song, ‘Lob des Leidens’, and is particularly compelling
in his performance of the impassioned fourth song, ‘Aus den
Liedern der Trauer’. I mentioned his sense of line a moment
ago and this, plus a wonderfully round, firm tone and excellent
diction are hallmarks of his whole contribution to the disc.
last five songs call for a bass voice in the shape of Alistair
Miles. On a couple of occasions in the past, in reviewing
contributions to performances of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius
been somewhat unimpressed, finding his singing somewhat overblown.
I’m delighted to say that here, in the more intimate world
of lieder, there’s absolutely no trace of that and I enjoyed
his singing very much. He’s ideally suited to ‘Im
Spätboot’, which has what Roger Vignoles aptly describes
as “a dark, weary resonance.” And he has the range to cope
with the very end of the song, which finishes on a cavernous
bottom D flat.
this Miles offers the four songs that constitute op. 87.
Though these songs were composed between 1922 and 1935 it
was not until 1945 that Strauss gathered them together, in
the process re-dedicating ‘Erschaffen und Beleben’ to Hans
Hotter. That song is a setting of Goethe while the other
three songs have texts by Rückert. Vignoles suggests the
group form a “four-movement song sonata” of which that second
song is the scherzo. I think that’s an excellent description.
The first song, ‘Vom künftigen Alter’ is very fine. The mood
is dignified but there’s a good deal of power in the music
too. The title translates as “Of approaching old age” and
Strauss’s music – and Miles’s performance of it – indicates
that this elderly man is far from a spent force. ‘Und dann
nicht mehr’ is another notable song – Vignoles very plausibly
suggests links with Mandryka’s music in Arabella
one can imagine Hotter singing. The last of the set, ‘Im
Sonnenschein’, is, for the most part, an urgent, positive
song but the closing section is more thoughtful and lyrical.
Alistair Miles’s performance of the whole set strikes me
as a conspicuous success.
the recital Roger Vignoles pianism is superb. The piano parts
frequently sound fiendishly difficult yet Vignoles surmounts
all the challenges and one feels he is “with” his singers
at all times. To add to our pleasure he provides, once again,
succinct and perceptive notes on all the songs.
three volumes in this series that have all been lustrously
performed by female singers it’s good to find Messrs. Maltman
and Miles redressing the balance, as it were, with some splendid
accounts of Strauss songs for the male voice. This latest
instalment in Hyperion’s series is every bit as welcome and
enjoyable as were its predecessors and further volumes are
Reviews of other issues in this series
Volume 1 - CDA67488
2 - CDA67588
Volume 3 - CDA67602