R. Strauss: Don Juan; Macbeth; Lieder

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: R. Strauss
LABELS: Halle
ALBUM TITLE: Strauss
WORKS: Don Juan; Macbeth; Lieder
PERFORMER: Anne Schwanewilms, Halle Orchestra, Mark Elder
CATALOGUE NO: CD HLL 7508
Fans of the Hallé will be delighted with Mark Elder’s intense but spacious accounts of the tone poems here, even if the constant re-emergence on CD of Strauss’s most blustery orchestral work, Macbeth, is a mystery (after all Liszt, the pioneer of this kind of narrative, barely gets a look-in these days).

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For the rest of us, though, the heart of the matter rests with in the partnership between conductor, orchestra and the most intriguing young Straussian soprano of the day. While Anne Schwanewilms’s more fascinating characterisations – above all her Ariadne – haven’t always carried to the far reaches of the opera house, the recording here highlights her luminous subtleties and phenomenal phrasing. What an interesting song-sequence it is, too, creating a dream where the spell is only broken by the big orchestral postlude of ‘Die Heiligen drei Könige’ and the more operatic reaches of the last choice, ‘Befreit’. Schwanewilms often begins with lines of instrumental purity, beautifully attuned to Elder’s careful orchestral detail, before negotiating a surge of human emotion or a change of colour: the move to the minor key in ‘Wiegenlied’ and the recitative while the orchestra holds its breath in ‘Morgen!’ are especially telling. On this evidence, she is certainly fit company for Gundula Janowitz, Margaret Price, Karita Mattila and Soile Isokoski in the sudden rapture of the sound she makes. David Nice