Out-Rageous – Kramerspiegel, Op. 66; Gesänge des Orients, Op. 77, etc; Behle: Der Schmetterling
Daniel Behle (tenor), Oliver Schnyder (piano)
Prospero PROSP 0011 59:44 mins
The jester so vividly illustrated on the cover of this release only pops up once in the first half of this intriguing not-quite-all-Strauss recital: tenor Daniel Behle slips his own perfect little Strauss pastiche setting, Hermann Hesse’s ‘Der Schmetterling’ (The Butterfly), into the opening nature sequence. Other tenors (and sopranos) should take it up as a mystery encore, but Behle’s way with it, and the rest, is inimitable. Miraculous long-breathed phrases in the slower winter and wood meditations, big near-heroic outbursts and a unique way with inward reflection all mark out the highest artistry.
How wonderful, too, that he’s chosen the settings of the Persian poet Hafez – as translated into German by Hans Bethge, of Das Lied von der Erde fame – in the six Songs of the Orient. They’re not all of equal quality, ending on an uneasy note with ‘Huldigung’ (Homage), but ‘Ihre Augen’ (Her Eyes) is one of Strauss’s most crystalline games with harmonies, and Behle brings out a femininity in head voice when it’s needed.
The selling-point is the long-winded parody-attack on greedy publishers, the Kramerspiegel (Shopkeeper’s Mirror) cycle. The first batch of songs, at least, would shine with serious texts; Behle plays it straight, while his pianist, Oliver Schnyder, so good in supportive sublety, needs to burst out a bit in moments of comic-extravagant rhetoric. But the Schumannesque inspiration which rises above all the worldly squabbles and later became the ‘Moonlight Music’ in Strauss’s final opera Capriccio is beautifully done, and brings a surprising work to a heavenly end.