R Strauss: Songs Vol 1

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: R Strauss
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Strauss songs
WORKS: Songs Vol 1
PERFORMER: Christine Brewer, Roger Vignoles
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67488
Hyperion launches its series of Strauss songs with a handsome processional, lustrously guided by the outstanding Isolde and Ariadne of our day, Christine Brewer. Pianist and presiding spirit Roger Vignoles takes us on a select chronological jaunt, making sure Brewer boldly goes to the heart of the bigger numbers where lesser voices would fear to tread. Her glorious instrument, fine-tuned from top to bottom, effortlessly negotiates some of Strauss’s more outlandish intervals. True, Brewer is a touch reined-in by her careful accompanist in the heroic swagger of ‘Ich liebe dich’ and ‘In der Campagna’; but they make a true ecstatic partnership in the first of the Songs of the Orient, ‘Ihre augen’, an arching love-song to resounding sentiments by the great Persian poet Hafiz – this is the track to try if you want to test Brewer’s Straussian credentials.

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Brewer is equally remarkable in the simple candour of the more straightforward ‘hits’. It’s a very different approach from the other-worldly colours and half-lights of young Anne Schwanewilms (see the review above) but no less valid (with the possible exception of the ‘Lullaby’, Op. 41/1). The recorded ambience, though, is surely too dry for this opulent voice; Brewer deserves the same kind of cushioning as the Ingres odalisque on the cover of this release. David Nice