ALBUM TITLE: Strauss/Nono/Wagner/Mahler
WORKS: Choral works.
PERFORMER: SWR Vocal Ensemble, Stuttgart/Marcus Creed
CATALOGUE NO: CD 93.179
CDs offering nothing but Strauss’s a cappella choral works quickly become too much of a good thing, and a little of Luigi Nono’s Italian text-disembowelling can go a long way. So it was an inspired idea to place them at loggerheads in a symmetrical programme, especially given such a companionable, pitch-perfect choir as the SWR Vocal Ensemble, Stuttgart. The group is now in the hands of Marcus Creed, an expert trainer who has achieved great results in Berlin; and the unearthly purity of upper voices as the god of Strauss’s and Schiller’s evening picture descends sets the scene very well indeed.
These are not operatic performances on the scale of the Danish Radio Choir’s all-Strauss disc (Chandos), but they reach an unexpected fullness in Strauss’s second setting, ‘Hymne’, and the most linear of the Nono settings, a 1954 lovesong to his future wife. Most exciting of all are the climaxes of the real novelties here, Clytus Gottwald’s arrangements of the two Wesendonck Lieder which Wagner transfigured in Tristan. At first the choral transcription can seem too fussy for the harmonic suspensions to achieve their true magic, but both settings open out dazzlingly. Sopranos hit spot-on top Ds both here and in a very substantial bonus, Gottwald’s even more successful treatment of ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ from Mahler’s Rückert Lieder. Venues vary but the various acoustics are beautifully matched and the programme sounds consistently resplendent. David Nice.