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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Heimliche Aufforderung
see end of review for track listing
Christiane Karg (soprano)
*Felix Klieser (horn)
Malcolm Martineau (piano)
rec. 28 September – 1 October, 2013, Studio 1des BR, München
German texts and English translations included
BERLIN CLASSICS 0300566BC [72:15]

I’m not sure that I’ve heard the young German soprano, Christiane Karg before but I do recall enjoying very much an interview that she gave last year to my Seen and Heard colleague, Margarida Mota-Bull. That conversation took place when Miss Karg was at Glyndebourne to sing Rameau. A few months later she went into the recording studios to set down this contribution to the Strauss 150th anniversary celebrations.

My first encounter with this disc came a few weeks ago in the MusicWeb Listening Room. Further listening has reinforced the favourable initial impression. However, I ought to comment immediately on one thing. In the report from the Listening Room I said that we had felt that in Morgen, which was the first song to which we listened, the balance between voice and piano wasn’t quite right; the piano was a little too prominent. Further experience of the disc on my own equipment at home has removed that caveat: I now feel the balance is satisfactory throughout the programme. It may be that in the Listening Room we formed that impression because this was the first track that we heard – we were much happier with the balance in the other excerpts from the programme that we auditioned – or it may be a case of different equipment and different listening environments producing varied results.

Miss Karg has chosen her programme well in terms of providing an enjoyable and varied recital and also in terms of selecting songs that are well suited to her voice. In the Listening Room we all felt that ‘this is a true Strauss voice.’ Now, having had the chance to read Miss Karg’s comments in the booklet I see that she classes her voice as a ‘silver’ voice: I agree. It’s interesting to learn that at the time of recording this album she was also preparing to sing for the first time the role of Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier – though the recording project was planned before the operatic opportunity arose, it seems. So, in a way, here we have Sophie in Lieder and it’s a most enjoyable experience.

There are five songs from the composer’s Op 10: all are well done. The first of these is Die Georgine and I wrote in my listening notes that Miss Karg characterises the words very well without ever distorting the line as she does so; that, I found, was to be typical of the programme as a whole. I warmed immediately to Christiane Karg’s tone and the clarity of her voce and diction. I also like the way the voice opens up, effortlessly and naturally, when the music calls for it – for instance at ‘Wenn ich die jetzt des Frühling brächte’ in this particular song. I like the flowing tempo for Zueignung, which is sung expressively and, in verse three, ecstatically. Karg’s way with Die Nacht is poised and almost confiding; here she spins a beautiful line, singing with admirable control. Allerseelen is a gorgeous song and here my ear was caught particularly by some perfectly placed soft high notes.

The Op 10 songs are well known. Less familiar are a couple of early compositions. Alphorn is pleasing but not desperately remarkable. Interest is added by the horn obbligato, here well played by Felix Klieser. Another early offering is Begegnung. This is delightful, especially because Miss Karg is so effective at conveying the girlish eagerness that the song requires.

The album takes its title from Heimliche Aufforderung, one of Strauss’s wonderful outpourings. Christiane Karg does this song really well, rising marvellously to the song’s ecstatic end. This performance confirms her strong Strauss credentials. At the other end of the scale Geduld is sung with gentle radiance while Malcolm Martineau is at his most sensitive. This is a beguiling performance. In Befreit Miss Karg draws her listener in through her expressiveness and through the sheer beauty of tone and line that she offers.

I haven’t mentioned every item in this programme but I can assure readers that everything is done to the same high standard as those songs that I’ve singled out for individual comment. Again, I’ve focused on Miss Karg’s performances because her name may be unfamiliar to some. By contrast Malcolm Martineau needs no introduction. For a recital such as this Christiane Karg could scarcely have wished for a more accomplished, supportive and sensitive partner. Martineau brings experience and distinction to all the songs in this programme.

The recorded sound is good, showing off Miss Karg’s voice to very good effect. The documentation is similarly good and the only small irritation was that, with a handful of exceptions, the composition date of each song was not mentioned; that’s fairly basic information which ought to be supplied as a matter of course.

This is a delightful disc and a fine tribute to Strauss on the 150th anniversary of his birth.

John Quinn

Track listing
Das Rosenband, Op. 36 No. 1 (1897) [2:54]
Ständchen, Op. 17 No. 2 (1885) [2:36]
Hat gesagt - bleibt's nicht dabei, Op. 36 No. 3 [2:01]
Die Georgine Op. 10 No. 4 (1885) [3:43]
Alphorn, Op. 29* (1878) [4:21]
Traum durch die Dämmerung, Op. 29 No. 1(1885) [3:08]
Freundliche Vision, Op. 48 No. 1(1900) [2:37]
Geduld Op. 10 No. 5 (1885) [4:47]
Zueignung, Op. 10 No. 1 (1885) [1:39]
Heimliche Aufforderung, Op. 27 No. 3 (1894) [3:10]
Begegnung, AV 72 (1880) [2:03]
Ich wollt ein Sträusslein binden, Op. 68 No. 2(1918) [2:44]
Madrigal, Op.15, No. 1 (1886) [2:58]
Heimkehr, Op. 15 No. 5 (1886) [2:14]
Morgen, Op. 27 No. 4 (1894) [3:42]
Die Nacht, Op. 10 No. 3 (1885) [2:52]
Befreit, Op. 39 No. 4 (1898) [4:58]
Leises Lied, Op. 39 No. 1 (1898) [2:32]
Drei Lieder der Ophelia Op. 67 (1918) [7:33]
Malven, AV 304 (1948) [2:40]
Allerseelen, Op. 10 No. 8 (1885) [3:12]
Am Ufer, Op. 41 No. 3 (1899) [2:25]