The perennial attraction of Strauss’s Lieder is their durability in the hands of various interpreters, who bring their own approaches to these works. Charlotte Margiono brought to these 1993 performances a sense of line that makes these works sound as if the composer had her voice in mind when he wrote them. While twelve songs recorded here date from various points in Strauss’s career, Margiono delivers each of them fluently. “Frühling”, the first of the posthumously collected Vier letzte Lieder
seems effortless, as are the melismas that characterize several passages of the song that follows, “September”. Her interpretation of the well-known song “Beim Schlafengehen” brings to mind some of the deft way in which Margiono presented such characters as Elsa from Lohengrin
or Fiordiligi from Così fan tutte
on the opera stage. This song is particularly effective, as her voice soars with the support of the orchestral accompaniment, as she delivers the final lines of the text. Likewise, “Im Abendrot” reflects a thoughtful approach to the final song of the set. De Waart sets the tone with careful phrasing of the extended introduction to this setting of Eichendorff’s text. The autumnal character of the piece is evident in the valediction Margiono offers in her interpretation of this piece, and de Waart confirms that sense in his thoughtfully phrased postlude to the song.
With the other Lieder, the challenge for any singer is to bring out the individual character of each song, and Margiono succeeds well in this regard. “Zueignung” benefits from the good forward motion of the accompaniment, which sets it apart from other performances. In contrast, the elegiac character of “Morgen” is an opportunity for Margiono to bring out the appoggiaturas and non-harmonic tones of the vocal line and, in turn, evoke some echoes of Wagner’s style in this piece. Such subtle pacing is part of “Befreit,” which builds to its conclusion. The sustained quality of these performances also points up the skill which Margiono brings to these performances in a recording which is satisfying. Many of these songs are familiar from concert performances by various singers. That’s true in particular of “Waldseligkeit”. The Margiono and de Waart merit attention for the finesse they bring to this music.
De Waart is good in balancing the orchestra with the voice, so that the result is convincing. The good sound of the original recording is preserved well in this release from Brilliant Classics. Those familiar with de Waart’s Strauss discography may have encountered a similar approach to the ensemble in his recording of Der Rosenkavalier
, among other efforts. His approach to Strauss allows the details of Strauss’s scores to emerge, rather than sound indistinct. The vocal line and accompaniment form the kind of unity that occurs in the kind of recital in which the singer and pianist interact in the style of chamber music.
James L. Zychowicz