With this first instalment, Hyperion has embarked on a project never undertaken before; the complete songs by Richard Strauss. Welcome news indeed, when one considers that out of the 200 or so songs that Strauss wrote, barely a dozen are in the public's affection and only around 30 are featured with any regularity in the concert hall. The reason for this apparent neglect certainly does not lie with the music, but more with the choice of poetry that the composer decided to set, works of a mediocre nature that are still regarded to be on the very edge of poetry's historical legacy. Although Strauss decided to set a few gems by Goethe, Ruckert and Heine, the composer very often opted for lesser known poems, thus giving himself the opportunity to focus more on the music and avoid dangerous comparisons between text and music.
This first volume combines such favourites as 'Allerseelem', 'Wiegenlied' and 'Zueignung' together with a group of lesser known songs in a recital that excites and surprises. The orchestral timbre of many of the accompaniments can be a cause to scare off performers but Roger Vignoles as usual, provides the perfect accompaniment to soprano Christine Brewer, whose wonderfully gifted voice is excellently suited to the vast range of dynamics that these songs demand.
Another strong point of this album are the exceptional notes by Roger Vignoles himself. He not only informs the reader of the general panorama of these compositions, but adds insightful commentaries on each song. Full texts and translations are provided as well. Hyperion informs us that this series may take up either eight or nine CD's. Judging by this initial instalment this venture promises to be an enthralling voyage of discovery and will definitely fill an important gap in the catalogue. I am looking forward to Volume 2 and the rest.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech