WORKS: Exsultate, jubilate, K165; Mia speranza adorata, K416; Liebeshymnus; Das Bächlein; Das Rosenband; Morgen; Wiegenlied
PERFORMER: Christine Schäfer (soprano), Maria João Pires (piano), Kay Johannsen (organ); Berlin PO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: 457 582-2
Christine Schäfer is best known in the UK for her astonishingly well-sung portrayal of Berg’s Lulu at Glyndebourne in 1996. The young German soprano has now been signed up by DG, and this disc of Mozart and Strauss is the first result. Schäfer’s well-focused voice is ideally suited to 20th-century repertoire, but she has also spent a great deal of her career to date performing Baroque music; her Mozart is thus impeccably stylish, and her Strauss poised and well-detailed rather than voluptuous. Her vocal timbre is a long way from the ‘schoolgirl’ sound of many of today’s lighter sopranos: Schäfer sounds like a real woman, and is properly able to convey grown-up emotions.
The main rarity value here is in two of the stratospheric concert arias Mozart composed for his sister-in-law Aloysia Weber: Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio! soars up to a top E, while Mia speranza adorata goes a semitone further. Schäfer is supremely equal to all of this, and to the different musical challenges of a pair of German concert arias and a set of reasonably famous Strauss orchestral songs. She could hardly ask for better accompaniments than those provided by Abbado and the BPO: sprightly and stylish in the Mozart, loving and warm for Strauss. Stephen Maddock