Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Richard Strauss: Lieder
17 Oct 2006

STRAUSS: Lieder

Virtuosic, expressive, subtle evocative – these words can be used to describe various aspects of the Lieder of Richard Strauss.

Richard Strauss: Lieder

Jonas Kaufmann, tenor, Helmut Deutsch, piano.

Harmonic Mundi HMC901879 [CD]

$21.98  Click to buy

These works offer not only a variety of intriguing settings of poetry, but are also a fascinating for the way the composer allows vocal timbres to shape the content. In this selection of Lieder from various periods in Strauss’s life, the tenor Jonas Kaufmann and the pianist Helmut Deutsch include some familiar pieces, as well as music that may be less well know. Some of the pieces, like “Zueignung,” “Allerseelen,” and “Heimlich Aufforderung” and “Morgen!” are often heard in recital, while others may be less familiar and nonetheless moving. Kaufmann’s rich tenor voice is particularly effective in this repertoire, which approaches with sensitivity to the texts and enthusiasm for the music. His ringing, resonant sound helps to bring out Strauss’s wide-ranging melodic lines. Likewise, his capacity for a range of dynamic levels contributes to the expressiveness that this repertoire demands.

At the same time, the accompaniment of these songs sometimes exceeds the bounds of the piano, with keyboard timbres that suggest the scoring Strauss used for the orchestral versions of some of his Lieder. The accompanist for Strauss’s Lieder must, at times, become an equal partner in performing these works successfully, and Deutsch’s facility lends itself well to these works. As a pianist who recorded all of the Lieder of Brahms, Deutsch is well-suited to performing Strauss’s works in this genre. He not only delivers the full-sounding chords that are de rigeur in some pieces, but Deutsch offers adept readings the more intricate figuration found in a setting like “Schlechtes Wetter,” which is particularly effective in his hands.

The aggressive character of some of these pieces can add demands to the voice, and Kaufmann brings a vigorous quality that seems tireless. Not jus a strong voice, Kaufmann posses a vibrant tone that allows him to infuse sustained pitches with dynamism that adds to these performances of Strauss’s Lieder. While this may not be approach that other singers may choose, it contributes to Kaufmann’s interpretations of Strauss’s Lieder and, in particular, the ones he selected for this recording. Even in the subdued passages of some songs, like “Heimliche Aufforderung,” Kaufmann retains an intensity that sustains the line. Likewise, Deutsch brings elicits wonderfully rich sonorities in the accompaniment of these settings, as occurs with “Cäcilie,” as well as others. The two seem to play off each other intuitively, and the result can evoke chamber music, as with their performance of “Traum durch Dämmerung.” In fact, the latter is memorable for the subtle control Kaufmann uses to keep from overstating the concluding strophe of the text.

A number of the Lieder included in this recording are familiar in their orchestral versions, and this makes the recording all the more interesting. The larger canvases of the orchestrations are not without interest, but the versions for voice and piano allow for a more intimate ensemble like that which Kaufmann and Deutsch bring out well in this set of performances. The immediacy of the piano versions is not always possible with orchestra, and this aspect of the music makes this recording particularly attractive. While the piano cannot convey the specific timbres found in Strauss’s orchestrations, Deutsch’s nuanced playing is quite exciting and colorful for what the pianist brings to the accompaniments.

In fact, the sound on this recording allows for a lively tone that makes these nuances audible, while still maintaining the intimate ensemble between Deutsch and Kaufmann. Like other recordings on the Harmonia Mundi label, this one benefits from well-thought mastering. Not only is the piano clearly present, but the voice is neither distorted nor obscured. With a song like “Mein Herz ist stumm,” for example, the subtleties that Kaufmann brings to his interpretation are evident and yet never overshadowed by the accompaniment. While this is due to the ensemble between the performers, it is laudable when such balance that is possible in a live recital also emerges clearly in a recording.

This recording of Strauss’s Lieder represents some fine performances of selections that are well-suited to a tenor, and Jonas Kaufmann is particularly effective with the music chosen for this CD. The pieces fit his voice well, with the tessitura of Lieder like “Sehnsucht” demonstrating the need to consider the appropriate voice type for this repertoire. While a single performer, like Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, can record the entirety of Strauss’s output in this genre, it is also useful to hear these works executed by such a tenor like Kaufmann, who brings his own strengths to them. Kaufmann is a fine interpreter of this repertoire, and one can look forward to further performances and recordings from him.


James L. Zychowicz

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):