Songs by Duparc, R Strauss and Rachmaninov
Elsa Dreisig (soprano), Jonathan Ware (piano)
Erato 9029531948 76.50 mins
Elsa Dreisig’s debut album Miroirs appeared two years ago to great acclaim (Christmas issue, 2018). Its ingenious tactic of juxtaposing arias for the same dramatic character from different operas allowed Dreisig to display her flair for overt theatricality and characterisation. Here we have a more difficult challenge. The texts are mostly descriptive of natural scenes, and the singer’s voice becomes not that of a ‘character’, but of an ethereal utterance of poetic contemplation, mood and metaphor. In the carefully planned sequence of songs day turns to night and then to dawn, and the year runs through its seasons.
In fact, these performers are in their element with pieces that contain hints of a narrative. The sprightly but sinister antics of the Pied Piper in Rachmaninov’s song of the same name evoke from Jonathan Ware the crispest of arch gestures in the piano accompaniment, and Duparc’s ‘La Vie antérieure’ induces Dreisig to conjure up the pain of a previous life with overwhelming dramatic force.
In general, the Rachmaninov performances are better than those of Duparc where there is sometimes a problem with colouring the fleeting harmonic changes (‘L’invitation au voyage’) and responding to the subtle fluidities of metre and phrasing (‘Serenade Florentine’). These difficulties occasionally spill over into one or two of the Strauss songs (‘September’ – though the piano postlude here is exquisitely presented), but both performers merge brilliantly and tenderly into focus for his ‘Im Abendrot’ and ‘Morgen’ – and the latter is certainly one of the finer performances available. Anthony Pryer