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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Through Life and Love
Louise Alder (soprano)
Joseph Middleton (piano)
rec. July 2016, Potton Hall, Suffolk ORCHID CLASSICS ORC100072 [64.48]
This artfully programmed debut Lieder recital has something in common with Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben, in that it leads us via a compilation of twenty-three songs on a journey through life from youth, longing, passion, partnership, motherhood and loss to death and “release”. It is unfortunately compromised by the lack of texts and translations, surely essential to a proper appreciation of the lovely songs, which were written between 1895 and 1918 and are mostly the product of Strauss’ early maturity. However, at least we are given excellent guidance notes provided by Joanna Wyld.
Louise Alder, currently a member of the Frankfurt Opera, was the winner of the Audience Prize at the 2017 Cardiff Singer of the World competition and has recently made a name for herself as a superb Sophie at the Proms and on tour in the Welsh National Opera’s Der Rosenkavalier. I was recently privileged to hear her in that role at the Birmingham Hippodrome and was enchanted by both her singing and stage presence; I was therefore surprised to find that the microphone in this excellent recording catches something of an edge in the top of her voice which was not apparent to me live, where her voice emerged as bright but not shrill. That apart, her exemplary German diction, pure, long-breathed line and clear identification with the emotional import of the poetry all serve her very well here. She is by no means the first singer to present these songs; many of them have understandably been favourites with great artists such as Gundula Janowitz, Barbara Hendricks, Jessye Norman, Simon Keenlyside, Renée Fleming and Jonas Kaufmann – with whose 2005 recital this has ten songs in common. She has clearly and wisely made a careful selection designed to avoid tackling those songs which need a bigger, fuller sound than that which she currently possesses. Inextricably wedded as I am to the languorous beauty of Beverly Sills’ lush, rapturous version of “Breit über mein Haupt”, the account here sounds almost perfunctory, but Sills is accompanied by Julius Rudel in a full orchestral arrangement, whereas Alder, like Kaufmann, employs the conventional piano accompaniment, which is no doubt closer to what the composer intended and cannot be taken as slowly. The delicacy of Alder’s lyric soprano matches the songs chosen very well; she maintains a fine, light line, even if, again, just occasionally, the tone hardens in alt. Given the vivid way in which she enlivens words, I wonder why I do not find her voice to have as much personality or “face” as favourite recitalists but that is merely a personal reaction.
Jospeh Middleton’s pianism is exemplary, as is the recorded sound.
I think it a pity that the singer’s own thanks and dedication to those who have helped her on her way to stardom resort to the customary yoofspeak hyperbole by calling them “incredible, brilliant and amazing” – but her gratitude otherwise sounds sincere.
Ach, was Kummer, Qual und Schmerzen
Breit über mein Haupt
Wie sollten wir geheim sie halten
Ruhe, meine Seele
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