Lortzing, Weber, Wagner, Strauss

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Lortzing,Strauss,Wagner,Weber
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Evening Star
WORKS: Arias
PERFORMER: Thomas Quasthoff (bass-baritone), Christiane Oelze (soprano); Deutsche Oper Berlin Chorus & Orchestra/Christian Thielemann
CATALOGUE NO: 471 493-2
Karita Mattila’s new disc opens, appropriately enough, at one of the great founts of German Romanticism: Beethoven’s Fidelio. But there is nothing predictable about it, and admirers of the soprano and devotees of this great opera alike are in for a treat. She tackles ‘Abscheulicher!’ excitingly and proceeds to sing Leonore’s aria with a mixture of glowing strength and radiant intimacy. Apart from two non-operatic scenas by Beethoven and Mendelssohn, the rest of the programme is devoted to Weber, and the soft rapture of ‘Leise, leise’ is as compelling as the drama of the bigger arias. Mattila is unrivalled in this repertoire today, and she has the added bonus of cultivated, idiomatic accompaniments from the Dresdeners under Colin Davis.

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Thomas Quasthoff has the rather more ordinary support of Christian Thielemann and his Berlin orchestra. Yet his dark-grained baritone, with plenty of ‘air’, is heard to good, lively effect in the six Lortzing numbers that make up over half his disc. He moves on through Weber and Wagner (with simple poetry at the ‘Hymn to the Evening Star’) in a way that reflects his Lieder-singing credentials though not quite enough variety of characterisation, but ‘Wie schön ist doch die Musik’ from Strauss’s Schweigsame Frau brings things to a touchingly resigned close. John Allison