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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
1. Rote Rosen, WoO. 76 [2:08]
2. Begegnung, WoO. 72 [1:52]
3. Die Nacht, Op. 10, No. 3 [2:54]
4. Einerlei, Op. 69, No. 3 [2:35]
5. Befreit, Op. 39, No. 4 [4:50]
6. Zueignung, Op. 10, No. 1 [1:49]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Wesendonck-Lieder, WWV 91 [1858]
7. Der Engel [3:14]
8. Stehe Still! [3:34]
9. Im Treibhaus [5:47]
10. Schmerzen [2:26]
11. Träume [4:27]
12. Du meines Herzens Krönelein, Op. 21, No. 2 [1:55]
13. Ruhe, meine Seele! Op. 27, No. 1 [3:18]
14. Traum durch die Dämmerung, Op. 29, No. 1 [2:46]
15. Meinem Kinde, Op. 37, No. 3 [2:19]
16. Nichts, Op. 10, No. 2 [1:30]
17. Morgen! Op. 27, No. 4 [3:49]
Adrianne Pieczonka (soprano); Brian Zeger (piano)
rec. 2014, Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, Canada
English notes; German texts with English translations
DELOS DE3474 [51:22]

While I recognise that Canadian soprano Adrienne Pieczonka has an important voice, I do not find myself especially moved or involved while listening to this recital, nor am I able to echo in the same terms the several glowing reviews this disc has received elsewhere.

I find her singing restrained and even rather anonymous, for all her beauty and security of tone. It does not help that for all that Brian Zeger is an accomplished and sensitive accompanist, I prefer these songs in their more sonorous and expansive orchestrated versions. That said, it is certainly true that if you want the piano arrangements then they are as well performed here as you could wish; a case in point is the elegance of Zeger’s postlude in “Morgen”.

The disc is rather short measure at only fifty-one minutes and the arrangement of songs, sandwiching the “Wesendonck Lieder” between “Songs” and “More Songs” by Strauss rather odd – but let that pass, as those two composers have long made a classic combination.

Pieczonka has a large, full voice which is not especially individual or alluring and I do not agree that it is distinguished by its purity: to my ears, there is something of a scratch in the tone and a catch in her heavy vibrato. The opening song struck me as lacking lightness and I desire more sensuality in the Wagner songs, which are necessarily taken rather faster than they would be in their orchestral form. It sounds to me as if she is quite often holding too much back in order to ensure refinement and the “still point” at the centre of deep yearning is not touched.

I readily accept that others might respond more positively to this album as reactions to voices are so subjective, but I do think that there are several other singers, such as Janet Baker, Christa Ludwig, Eileen Farrell and, more recently, Stephanie Blythe, whose excursions into this repertoire are more penetrating.
Ralph Moore



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