Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s fifteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.

Lalo: Complete Songs

Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.

Félicien David: Herculanum

It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.

Samuel Barber: Choral Music

This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.

A Prize-Winning Rediscovery from 1840s Paris (and 1830s Egypt)

Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century.

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100 songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles” with herself!).

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their 40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.



Richard Strauss: Lieder
17 Oct 2006


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):