Berg, Mahler, Zemlinsky, Wolf & R Strauss

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Berg,Mahler,Wolf & R Strauss,Zemlinsky
LABELS: Orfeo
ALBUM TITLE: Diana Damrau
WORKS: Various songs
PERFORMER: Diana Damrau (soprano), Stephan Matthias Lademann (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: C 702 061 B
Covent Garden audiences know German soprano Diana Damrau as a coloratura of unusual sensibility, offsetting pyrotechnic brilliance with heart, and even making human sense of as absurd a character as the yodelling Fiakermilli in Strauss’s Arabella. She only shows off at the official end of this Salzburg recital, taking flight with the rococo frills

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of Strauss’s ‘Amor’.

Otherwise, Damrau’s programme is a clear, intelligent blend of robust innocence and subtly disquieting experience; her performances are informed by a candour nicely lit in the recording, a well-coloured lower register and an obvious, unfussy delight in the meaning of the texts. The natural phenomena painted by the early Berg songs are glimpsed from a palpitating human perspective, contrasting beautifully with the canny child’s view of heaven as represented by the Mahler song which eventually found its way into the finale of the Fourth Symphony. Zemlinsky’s uncomplicated Waltz Songs are despatched with easy élan before the surprising perversities of Wolf’s Mörike settings.

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If the bizarre whimsy of Strauss’s Mädchenblumen might have been better replaced with all six, rather than just two, of the later Brentano songs, Op. 68 – Damrau could probably manage the full range required – they retain a sphinx-like smile. As far as the accompanying is concerned, German pianist Stephan Matthias Lademann is a sometimes reticent stylist, though he manages the flight of Zemlinsky’s village swallows and Wolf’s buzzing bee delightfully. David Nice