It’s more than fifteen years since I first heard the
young Camilla Tilling. She was engaged as soloist with our local
symphony orchestra, of which I had then recently become president.
I was captivated by her light, bell-like soprano, her technical
command and, not least, her expressivity. There was soul and
depth behind her effortlessly produced tones. Learning that
she also had a song repertoire I immediately engaged her for
a song recital in our chamber music society. This was another
success and more than one of the visitors predicted a great
career. And so it was. Before long she was gone, the international
stages stood in line for her, Metropolitan, Covent Garden, later
La Scala. In Sweden she sang at the Gothenburg Opera, where
she once made her debut, and I caught her as the soprano soloist
in Beethoven’s ninth in Stockholm. Period!
Three years ago BIS issued a solo disc with Camilla Tilling
in Strauss songs. I ended my review ‘More, please, BIS!’ Now I have had
my request granted. And let me get straight to the point: This
is a damn good disc! The Strauss CD was very good; here it seems
that she has gained even more colours and nuances while retaining
that original youthful timbre and ravishing beauty of tone.
Now in mid-career she has reached that ideal equilibrium between
singing per se and interpreting, or the equal balance
of words and music. There is in Tilling’s singing the
same unaffected simplicity and naturalness of Elly Ameling,
who was to my mind the greatest soprano in the Lieder Fach in
the wake of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. While Schwarzkopf was artfulness
personified, Ameling was her opposite pole - but with the same
deep insights. Tilling is a singer whose voice can’t be
mistaken for either Schwarzkopf or Ameling but in approach she
belongs to the Ameling school. Just listen to Suleika II
(tr. 5). It is so sensitive, so beautiful and her diminuendo
on the last note is lovely - and feels quite natural. She doesn’t
over-do the effect.
As on her Strauss disc she mixes the well known with the not
so well known. The first five songs must be counted as belonging
to the latter category while An Silvia (tr. 6) has been
sung and recorded by countless singers. Any new singer who essays
that lovely song is up against all the great names of the past.
I haven’t listened to the two dozen or so recordings on
my shelves just for this review but as soon as I heard the very
first phrases of Tilling’s reading it felt right. The
song unfolded so naturally - I know I have used the word before
- and there wasn’t a hint of calculation. There is enormous
care, preparation and testing to reach this result, but it sounds
spontaneous. Art concealing art. Der Zwerg (tr. 7) reveals
her dramatic capacity and that she has more power than one can
expect. She is now at an age when it is not uncommon that a
former Susanna and Sophie takes on the Countess and the Feldmarschallin
There is lovely singing throughout and I will just single out
a couple of songs that felt special. Heimliches Lieben
(tr. 9), a relative rarity, became a new favourite after hearing
this delightful reading. I couldn’t resist playing it
twice again before I continued listening. Frühlingsglaube
(tr. 11) is sung so softly and inwardly, almost hesitatingly
- and to great effect. The two final songs are heard in masterly
interpretations. Totengräber’s Heimweh (tr.
14) was for me long synonymous with Fischer-Dieskau; in particular
his 1970 recording with Gerald Moore (DG). It seems designed
for a baritone voice but remarkably Tilling darkens her voice
and reaches the same depth as F-D. The final stanza is immensely
moving. So is Litanei (tr. 15), sung with skinless vulnerability.
Paul Rivinius, as on the previous disc, is an ideal partner.
The recording balance is what one expects to hear in a good
chamber music hall. Horst A. Scholz manages to squeeze in lots
of illuminating information in the relatively limited space
offered by the booklet. One further detail: BIS cleverly leaves
generous silences between each song, enabling the listener time
to digest the first song and prepare for the next.
A superb Schubert recital in every respect. More, please, BIS!