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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Die Drossel (1877) [2’05"]
Ach, was Kummer, Qual und Schmerzen, Op. 49 No. 8 [2’12"]
Ach Lieb, ich muss nun scheiden Op. 21 No. 3 [2’06"]
Die Nacht Op. 10 No. 3 [2’51"]
Der müde Wanderer (c.1873) [3’02"]
Das Bächlein op. 88 No. 1 [1’53"]
Lass ruh’n die Toten (1877) [3’32"]
Allerseelen Op. 10 No. 8 [3’25"]
Abend- und Morgenrot (1878) [1’51"]
Ruhe, meine Seele Op. 27 No 1 [3’23"]
Wiegenlied (1876) [2’15"]
In goldener Fülle Op. 49 No. 2 [2’19"]
Nebel (c1878) [1’42"]
Du meines Herzens Krönelein Op, 21 No. 2 [2’22"]
Weinachtsgefühl (1899) [1’52"]
Wiegenliedchen Op. 49 No. 3 [1’48"]
Leises Lied Op. 39 No. 1 [2’30"]
Schlagende Herzen Op. 29 no. 2 [2’28"]
Weihnachtslied (c.1870) [1’47"]
Morgen! Op. 27 No. 4 [3’37"]
Wer lieben will, muss leiden Op. 49 No. 7 [2’40"]
Wie sollten wir geheim sie halten Op. 19 No. 4 [1’55"]
Ein Röselein zog ich mir im Garten (c.1878) [1’42"]
Gefunden Op. 56 No. 1 [2’17"]
All mein Gedanken… Op. 21 No. 1 [1’04"]
Zueignung Op. 10 No. 1 [1’47"]
Marie McLaughlin (soprano); Graham Johnson (piano)
Recorded 28-20 April 1993. DDD

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Hyperion has just launched their planned complete edition of the songs of Richard Strauss with a magisterial recital by Christine Brewer (CDA67488). However excellent that new disc may be I do hope that neither it nor the mouth-watering prospect of an intégrale of Strauss lieder will divert attention from the welcome return to the lists of this earlier recital. Unaccountably, I missed this CD first time round but I’m delighted to have made amends now.

Miss McLaughlin does not have the refulgent voice that Miss Brewer possesses, nor does she have a similar vocal heft. However, her singing gives pleasure throughout this anthology and the programme has been well chosen to play to her own not inconsiderable vocal strengths.

Her selection includes some of Strauss’s earliest songs. Eight of them were composed in or before 1878. These juvenilia have a certain charm but, quite frankly, they are slight pieces beside some of the better-known songs. The placing of a song such as Abend- und Morgenrot between Allerseelen and the darkly glowing Ruhe, meine Seele just emphasises the point. I must also say that I regret that the wonderful Wiegenlied Op. 41, No. 1 is not included for I’m sure it would have suited Miss McLaughlin’s voice. The 1878 song bearing the same title, but setting a completely different poem, is a poor substitute.

However, the juvenilia are all very well performed and there are many other delights to savour. I’ve already mentioned Allerseelen and Ruhe, meine Seele. In the former Miss McLaughlin spins a lovely, sustained line and she brings the song to an ecstatic climax. The latter is splendidly poised and controlled. She gives us a gently rapt reading of Leises Lied and she conveys the joyfulness of Wie sollten wir geheim sie halten very effectively.

In goldener Fülle is another extrovert song and here both singer and pianist combine to give an energetic and buoyant performance. It’s about time I mentioned Graham Johnson for, as ever, he is the perfect partner for his singer. Throughout the recital his playing is delightful and you feel he is at all times "with" the singer. In no song is his role more crucial than in the exquisite Morgen! Every note in the piano part is perfectly weighted, every chord placed to perfection. The song is spun out daringly by both artists, McLaughlin singing with great control and warmth. Time seems to stand still during this lovely performance. The recital ends with winning accounts of two of the composer’s most popular songs. All mein Gedanken is a delight and the rapturous Zueignung is just as successful.

Throughout the recital Miss McLaughlin sings with warm, fresh tone and her diction is consistently clear. I found the recorded sound and the balance between her and the piano of the admirable Graham Johnson fully satisfactory. The documentation includes a useful essay by Michael Allis, which is also translated into French and German. The full texts of the songs and an English translation are also provided.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable recital, which has given me great pleasure. I hope others will enjoy it as much.

John Quinn

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