This is a re-release of a recording that originally appeared
on ASV in 2003 (CD DCA 1155) and has been mastered anew for
Champs Hill by Alexander Van Ingen. It is in fact the second
recital of lieder by Strauss to appear on the label within a
year, following Gillian Keith and Simon Lepper's recital, which
garnered enthusiastic reviews - here.
Evergreen Felicity Lott is still more popular with Champs Hill
- see reviews of her Plum
Me Flott and Summertime
discs. The equally perennial Graham Johnson appears with her
on two of those three. The pair cropped up again last year on
a Hyperion reissue of a much earlier recording (review).
Strauss's numerous songs date predominantly from his earlier
years; after the Great War he focused more on opera and orchestra.
The music here thus belongs to the great Germanic Lieder tradition
established by Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. It sits stylistically
between those and Wolf and Mahler: late-Romantically tuneful
and passionate, with the later ones expressively intensified
by chromaticism and harmonic ambiguity.
For their part, Lott and Johnson have divided their programme
into five neat if loose sections, beginning with a set of songs
under the heading 'Nocturnes and Fantasies'. They follow this
with four songs under 'Flowers', seven under 'Valedictions and
Lullabies' and four under 'Girls in and out of Love', before
rounding off their amply-proportioned set with Three Ophelia
Songs and Morgen!
"I thank my Almighty Creator for the gift and inspiration of
the female voice", Richard Strauss once said. Music-lovers since
have had Strauss himself to thank as creator of countless gifts
of inspiration written for the female voice: not only incredible
operatic roles like Salome and Elektra, but lieder like Cäcilie,
Morgen!, Ständchen and the (so-called) Four
Last Songs. Strauss never makes it easy for either singer
or pianist/orchestra, to put it mildly, but Lott and Johnson
rise to his many challenges with seemingly plenty to spare.
With Johnson's charmingly modest and unfailing attendance, this
is a recital peppered with exquisite moments of Olympian power
and heroic breath control from Lott. These qualities give the
lie to the fact that her remarkable voice is into its sixth
decade! It is almost ideal for Strauss here: warmly lyrical,
clear, lithe and sensuously intoned, majestic in its dynamic
and emotional colourings.
Moreover, Lott's German pronunciation is very good, and that
gives her a certain advantage over most of the non-native competition,
who fling themselves regularly into the linguistic traps and
pits that the German language lays - vowel length, final -'er'/-'e'
distinction, glottalisation, lip-rounding and so on. Only seldom,
as in Allerseelen, does Lott let slip her foreignness,
and mistakes - like 'Leid' for 'Lied' in Wiegenlied,
'zu' without the initial [t] sound in Das Rosenband -
are conspicuous only by their rarity. Her diction is generally
impeccable - on the odd occasion when clarity is momentarily
lost, Strauss with his outrageous vocal demands is surely as
much to blame!
Most importantly, though, her phrasing is convincing. Unlike
some singers, she seems to understand the meaning of every word.
She communicates the emotional content of the poet's text, as
twee as it occasionally is, to impressive effect. Actresses
often see the portrayal of Shakespeare's Ophelia as an excuse
for bathos, but Lott is not one of them: hers is not Ophelia
the raving lunatic, but a young woman in much emotional turmoil,
distraite, saying things in a stream of consciousness.
The recording is a little on the quiet side, but sound and general
technical quality are very good. The booklet contains decent
notes by Michael Kennedy (imported from the ASV disc) that discuss
the songs under their allocated headings, detailed performer
biographies and full song texts in German and well-translated
English. As with the Gillian Keith recording, the track-list
is slightly misleading, giving the impression that Strauss's
op.67 is entitled Three Songs of Ophelia, whereas they
are in fact only the first half of a six-song cycle. There are
a few typos in the German texts, but of little consequence.
In sum, this is singing as it should be, so many planes of ability
above what passes for it in popular culture. A must for connoisseurs
of the musical voice.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
Waldseligkeit, op.49 no.1 (1900-01) [2:48]
Die Nacht, op.10 no.3 (1885) [2:59]
Ständchen, op.17 no.2 (1886) [2:31]
Leises Lied, op.39 no.1 (1898) [2:27]
Schlechtes Wetter, op.69 no.5 (1918) [2:30]
Des Dichters Abendgang, op.47 no.2 (1900) [5:20]
Der Stern, op.69 no.1 (1918) [1:53]
Die Verschwiegenen, op.10 no.6 (1885) [1:20]
Die Zeitlose, op.10 no.7 (1885) [1:42]
Blauer Sommer, op.31 no.1 (1895-96) [2:22]
Ich Wollt ein Sträußlein Binden op.68 no.2 (1918)
Ruhe, Meine Seele!, op.27 no.1 (1894) [3:43]
Allerseelen, op.10 no.8 (1885) [3:32]
Einerlei, op.69 no.3 (1918) [2:48]
Meinem Kinde, op.37 no.3 (1897) [2:27]
Wiegenlied, op.41 no.1 (1899) [4:34]
Muttertändelei, op.43 no.2 (1899) [2:20]
Zueignung, op.10 no.1 (1885) [1:55]
Winterweihe, op.48 no.4 (1900) [2:52]
Das Rosenband, op.36 no.1 (1897) [3:21]
Cäcilie, op.27 no.2 (1894) [2:05]
Ach! was Kummer, Qual und Schmerzen, op.49 no.8 (1901) [2:05]
Drei Lieder der Ophelia, op.67 nos.1-3 (1918) [7:46]
Morgen!, op.27 no.2 (1894) [4:05]